FLOREAT Athena bowed out of the FFA Cup last night but it took a long-range screamer for A-League outfit Melbourne City to progress to the Round of 16 after an entertaining contest at Dorrien Gardens tonight.
Athena, who play in WA’s top-tier competition, resisted City for long periods but Anthony Caceres unleashed from 30 metres just after the hour mark to seal a 2-1 win for the visitors.
Nick Fitzgerald scored the opener in the 32nd minute for City, who had rolled out a strong side that included the impressive Luke Brattan, Uruguayan Bruno Fornaroli and former English Premier League goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen in the starting line-up.
Floreat stormed back into the match with a 59th-minute goal through Kris Gate, which caused concern to City coach John van’t Schip, before Caceres fired home from outside the box in the 65th minute.
Brattan, on loan from Manchester City, hit the post from a free kick in just the third minute, and both sides drew saves from their opponents’ keepers inside the first 10 minutes.
Fornaroli drew an acrobatic save from Floreat keeper Jason Saldaris in the 28th minute after meeting another Brattan free kick.
Fitzgerald then opened the scoring after receiving the ball on the left, cutting inside on his right foot and rifling a low shot inside Saldaris’ right post.
Floreat’s equaliser came in the 59th minute on the counter attack; Lewis McMahon played a ball over the City defence for Gate to run on to, who made no mistake after lifting the ball over Sorenson.
Parity lasted just six minutes after Caceras received the ball 30m out, steadied himself and fired an unstoppable shot beyond Saldaris.
The impressive Jonathan Stynes had a chance to equalise in the 87th minute but fired a low shot at Sorenson after a good run into the box.
Floreat coach Glen Grostate was delighted with the effort of his part-time team against one of Australia’s most professional clubs.
“To only lose 2-1 to an outfit like that is tremendous,” he said.
“It’s the happiest I’ve been when I’ve lost a game.”
He also praised the WA football public as more than 1400 fans turned out to see his side’s historic first appearance in the Round of 32.
“We could feel the crowd behind us all night… it was like we had WA behind us and that was magnificent,” he said.
Van’t Schip was happy with the victory but conceded it had been a tough contest.
“They had some dangerous moments as well and credit to Floreat Athena,” he said.
“They made it very hard for us and we’re just happy we’re there for the next round.”
NPL WA clubs are still without a win in the FFA Cup since the first entries in 2014, although Cockburn City have a chance to buck the trend when it takes on Melbourne Knights in Victoria next Wednesday.
Bayswater City, who played Melbourne Victory, Stirling Lions (Brisbane Roar), Sorrento (Sydney FC) and Perth SC (Rockdale City) all fell at the first hurdle in recent years.