South Springvale defeated Newcastle-based South Cardiff in a dramatic penalty shootout at Kingston Heath Reserve to advance to the last 16 of the FFA Cup and a potential date with an A-League giant.
Rani Dowisha’s shootout save may not be as significant as Mark Schwarzer’s for the Socceroos nine years ago, but try telling that to the players, coaches and fans of South Springvale.
The part-timers, minnows, pub team - whatever you want to call them - from the third tier of Victorian football continued a Cinderella story that already contained two wins over first division Victorian opposition just to qualify for the first ever FFA Cup, a knockout competition based on England’s FA Cup that pits A-League teams against 22 local sides from across the country.
There were barbeques in the stands at a ground totally exposed to the elements on what was a wet and windy night.
Nearly 1500 fans turned up and were treated to goals, drama and, in the end, a fairytale result.
But the locals had to do it the hard way after twice falling behind.
South Cardiff striker Lee Ashton had the honour of scoring the first ever FFA Cup goal after getting on the end of a monster fifth minute throw in from Chris Gazzard.
Alex Florea hit back for the hosts with a header from a 25th minute corner but, when he left the field after receiving a boot to the head shortly before half time, Mitchell Wallace made the most of South Cardiff’s man advantage with a bullet of a strike from just inside the box.
South Springvale players looked out on their feet, but the introduction of former Melbourne Victory striker Ricky Diaco changed the course of the match and, with just 11 minutes left in regulation time, Sotiros Dimitrakopoulos scored after brilliant build-up play from Darragh Ryan.
Both teams had chances to win it in extra time, but neither could - and that’s where Dowisha stood up to be counted.
No South Springvale player missed in the shootout, but Gazzard blasted over with South Cardiff’s second shot before Dowisha saved Jarryd Johnson’s effort to win the game.
Just where does this story go from here?
South Springvale has not lost a game since May in all competitions.
It won five Dockerty Cup matches - Victoria’s knockout competition which also acted as the state’s FFA Cup qualification route - just to get here and now this.
Aris captain Craig Metcalfe was understandably elated post-match.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Metcalfe said.
“The boys were absolutely out on their feet with extra time to go, guys were cramping and coming down with all sorts of injuries, but they just kept going.
“In the shootout we backed Rani 100 per cent, we knew he’d at least save one, we just had to put ours away and the boys did the job.
“We’re through to the last 16 of Australia and seven of them are probably going to be A-League clubs so, if my maths is right, that’s the last nine (in terms of local clubs) and we’re just in the third division of Victoria.
“I can’t see anyone else doing that in the history of this competition and if they do it’s going to be one hell of an effort. I’ve never been a part of anything like that, it’s just amazing.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne Knights suffered a 3-1 loss to Olympic FC in Brisbane.
The former National Soccer League powerhouse fell behind to a first half brace from Jacob McLean only to pull one back in the 52nd minute via Jordan O’Doherty.
But a Mustafa Jafari strike three minutes from time sealed progression for the home team.