NPL Club Bentleigh Greens may have lost their FFA Cup semi-final on Friday evening 2-0 to A-League club Adelaide United but the Victorian club put on a creditable performance in front of a near full house at Kingston Heath and a national television audience.
With NPL clubs having failed at this penultimate stage of the competition on three previous occasions, many gathered in the hope of witnessing Bentleigh break through the barrier by becoming the first NPL club to reach an FFA Cup final. However from the opening whistle the Greens were under pressure from the Reds especially through attacks down the flanks.
However the Greens also had their early chances against a somewhat nervy Adelaide defence with strikers Matt Thurtell and Chris Lucas each missing a good chance they might have taken with a bit more composure.
When the opening goal of the game came in the 20th minute, it was with the run of play, with the Reds’ winger George Blackwood, penetrating down the left flank and cutting the ball back for his fellow winger Ben Halloran to tap in from close range. Reds centre forward Diawara missed a good chance to double the lead on the half hour before the Greens started to enjoy more possession. Midfielder Velibor Mitrovic, who was dropping deep, showed no sign of nerves on the ball. His team mate Josh Meaker went close in first half injury time, launching a thunderbolt from outside the box, that whistled past the post.
Unfortunately for the Greens, their hopes of carrying that momentum into the second half, were dashed when they conceded a second goal early in the second half. Greens’ keeper Ryan Scott managed to parry an Isaias free kick, but Reds defender Jordan Elsey was quickest to the rebound finding the net with a first time shot inside the near post.
With Bentleigh sub James Kelly livening up the attack, the Greens never stopped trying in the second half, pushing forward against an Adelaide team prepared to play on the counter. Despite their endeavour the Greens couldn’t fashion many clear cut chances in the second half. The final whistle signalled the end of the Greens’ long season.
After the match, Bentleigh coach John Anastasiadis commented on Fox Sports
“There are moments in games against superior opposition you’ve got to take,” he said. “We had a couple of those in the first five minutes but it just wasn’t to be today.
“I was happy with the way the lads played, they didn’t panic at any time. I think we pressed hard in the first 15 minutes. I think that was okay but it was also going a millions miles per hour the game.
“After 15 we sort of sat back a little bit and soaked up a bit of the pressure and started to play a bit which was good.
“We continued that in the second half but again it’s moments – set pieces we said – and they came in and scored.
“Nevertheless I’m happy for the boys, they did well this year and we capped it off with a good game today. I just wanted a goal though, for the romance of it. Next time.”
Meanwhile, during the interview, it also emerged that Anastasiadis was considering an offer to become the next head coach at South Melbourne, a club he took to a VPL championship in 2006.
“I’ll think about in over the next 48 hours and then make a decision,” he said.
“It’s great here (at Bentleigh) and I’m honoured that a team like South Melbourne want me. I’ll think about it very well, sit down with the family and discuss it and then make a decision.”
Adelaide United and Sydney FC will battle out their second successive FFA Cup final, after Sydney FC defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 in the other semi-final on Saturday night.