Soccerroo Ajdin Hrustic was on the winning side for Eintracht Frankfurt’s in the UEFA Europa League final victory over Glasgow Rangers in Seville and his former club South Melbourne FC were among the first to celebrate his achievement.
“Congratulations to former SMFC junior and current Socceroo Ajdin Hrustic on winning the Europa League this morning with Eintracht Frankfurt,” said South Melbourne on its Facebook page on Thursday morning.
Joel Aribo of Rangers had outpaced his markers to open the scoring for Rangers in the 57th minute. Rafael Satnos Borre Maury took full advantage of hesitancy from the Rangers backs to equalize for the German team 12 minutes later.
The former South Melbourne youth player came on as a substitute for the German Bundesliga team in the final 15 minutes of the match and converted his penalty in the penalty shootout after the two sides were locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time. Eintracht won 5-4 on penalties after Aaron Ramsey’s shot on goal was saved by Eintracht’s keeper Kevin Trapp.
Hrustic who draped an Australian flag at the end of the match, was the first Australian to win a European tournament since 2005 when Harry Kewell played for Liverpool in the the UEFA Champions League final
“All I saw was a wall of blue fans (Rangers supporters) behind the goal. I thought, you know what, I cannot embarrass myself right now. So, I stepped up and I put it down to side netting” Hrustic told Stan Sport.
In the dying moments of open play, the attacking midfielder had a chance to score from the edge of the penalty box but his shot went wide.
“It wasn’t easy to come on, but I did what I had to do. The manager told me stay behind the ball, try and shoot and get the ball moving left to right. I think I did it quite well.”
Hrustic who was born in Dandenong of Bosnian father and Romanian mother, played youth football with South Melbourne
He is Eintracht Frankfurt’s number 7, a team he joined in 2020. He made his professional debut with Dutch team with FC Gronigen in 2017, having joined that club from Melbourne in 2015. Because of his Bosnian and Romanian heritage, Hrustic was eligble to play for the national teams of Australia, Romania, or Bosnia and Herzegovina opting to play for the Socceroos.
Hrustic told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week that when he was 15, his parents sold their Melbourne home to help finance his hopes to become a professional footballer in Europe.
“My family believed in me and it all paid off at the end,” he said. “I’ve got no words, to be honest. I broke into tears after the final whistle and after we put it into the net,” the player told SMH.
Thanks to this victory, Eintracht Frankfurt, who lie 11th in the Bundesliga, will be in the group stages of next season’s Champions League. They are the first German team to win the Europa League (formerly the Uefa Cup) since Schalke did so in 1996-97. It is only the second time that the club has won a major European trophy – the first was the Uefa Cup that the team won in 1979-80 against Borussia Monchengladbach.