City dump FFA Cup holders Victory to reach final after Cahill controversy

‘Two sets of rules’: Victory coach fuming at referee
Nanjing Night Net

Melbourne City dumped holders Melbourne Victory out of the FFA Cup in a pulstating semi-final, winning 0-2 in front of nearly 16,000 fans at AAMI Park on Tuesday night to set up a final against Sydney FC.

The decider will be staged at the same AAMI Park venue on Wednesday, November 30.

The semi-final was a brilliant advertisement for the enmity that derbies develop, and for the intensity and passion generated by sudden-death cup soccer.

It had drama, controversy, niggle and spite, melees and confrontations as spotfires broke out all over the field.

Tim Cahill put himself about in a ferocious first 45 minutes when he looked as fired up as he was for any Merseyside derby back in his Everton days.

Carl Valeri, the Victory captain, threw himself into the fray at every opportunity, while Besart Berisha hustled, shouted and got in the face of City goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis on every occasion the shotstopper fluffed a clearance.

Victory coach Kevin Muscat – once a teammate of Cahill’s at Millwall – clashed with City’s star on the sideline; Cahill clashed with Jason Geria and Leigh Broxham. Geria went into the book for a rough challenge on Fernando Brandan and at every turn crunching tackles flew in, challenges were issued and never shirked.

This was a game in which no quarter was sought – nor any offered. The stakes were far higher than 10 days earlier, when City humiliated Victory 4-1 in the opening A-League derby of the season.

For Victory it was the chance to retain the trophy they won last season, for City the opportunity to win its first silverware and give its Manchester owners the first return on their investment.

It was also an immediate opportunity for Muscat’s men to prove what an aberration that derby loss had been.

Muscat ensured his side would not be bossed around in the same manner on this occasion, and they sought to impose themselves physically on their slicker oppponents from the outset.

But it was Lawrence Thomas who was the busier goalkeeper early, having to save from Cahill and then produce an excellent stop to deny Brandan.

A minute later – the ninth – came the game’s most controversial moment. Luke Brattan won the ball well in midfield from Fahid Ben Khalfallah and fed Brandan wide on the left. Brattan kept running forward as the winger cut in and played the ball back to him before Brattan fired a beautifully struck drive from outside the area past Thomas.

The only problem was that Cahill strayed into an offside position, and although he had not touched the ball he was in Thomas’ line of vision. The fact he had to duck to avoid the ball suggested he was interfering with play. The assistant referee cut short the City celebrations by flagging for offside but he was ultimately overruled by referee Shaun Evans, who allowed the goal to stand.

Victory’s North Terrace leaders had announced before the game that they would no longer co-ordinate active support, but in truth their influence was not missed in this match. There was plenty of singing and chanting, and every time Cahill went near the ball the cry of “here for the money, you’re only here for the money” rang out.

But they could not inspire their side to an equaliser in the first half, although they came close when City’s Danish defender Michael Jakobsen had to head off his own line and Bouzanis almost gifted Victory a leveller when his clearance cannoned into Besart Berisha and looped just over the bar.

Berisha had a golden opportunity to put his side back on level terms just after the half hour when he was set up with a great chance by Marco Rojas, but hit his cross over the bar. Shortly after, Baro’s header was dramatically saved by a diving Bouzanis as the temperature rose even higher.

Rojas had the ball in the net with 18 minutes remaining only for the goal to be ruled out as Berisha had played him on from an offside position. City put the tie beyond Victory’s reach with 13 minutes remaining when Paulo Retre robbed Nick Ansell and fed Nick Fitzgerald, his shot being seized on by Brandan to fire past Thomas.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.