Victory draw Phoenix in FFA Cup semis
Ben McKay |
Melbourne Victory will face Wellington Phoenix in the FFA Cup semi-finals, with one club looking to bulk out their trophy cabinet and the other to start one.
Wednesday night’s quarter-final winners were pitted against each other in Thursday’s semi-final draw, with Central Coast to face the winner of a quarter final between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar in the other semi.
Heavyweights Victory toppled two-time reigning FFA Cup winners Adelaide United 2-1 and want to win their first trophy under new coach Tony Popovic.
Plucky Wellington, without a trophy in 15 years, edged COVID-hit Melbourne City 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the sides finished 120 minutes without a goal.
Victory captain Josh Brillante says an FFA Cup triumph can help restore the club’s reputation as an A-League Men’s powerhouse.
Victory’s men have gone trophy-less since the 2018 A-League grand final heist in Newcastle, a run with six different coaches in charge.
Now, under Popovic, they’re two victories away from ending the four-year drought.
Brillante, who was recruited in the off-season and scored the equaliser on Wednesday, said Victory were building back towards their former selves.
“I think everyone can see it and we can feel it,” he said.
“We’ve had a good start to the season and we’ve been able to get the results even though we’re not playing some of the best football. It shows a winning team.”
Brillante won the Cup during Sydney FC’s golden era under Graham Arnold in 2017, a win wedged in between two Sky Blue premierships.
“Cups are so important … it brings confidence through the season,” he said.
“It’s a piece of silverware. Any club wants to win that. And it’s an Asian Champions League as well.”
The Phoenix’s tense shootout triumph came courtesy of teenage goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, who made three saves from the spot.
After the match City coach Patrick Kisnorbo lamented the club’s COVID situation, with all but five players catching the virus during the Christmas break.
“The boys showed great character, great resilience especially what they’ve been through,” he said.
“We’ve overcome adversity and put on a good performance.”
Brillante said Victory had “a few cases” among players in recent weeks.
“If you can avoid it, it’s a good thing but I guess we’re all going to be exposed at some stage,” he said.
“So you’re just going to do your best to stay safe and healthy and avoid it as much as you can.
“Everyone’s doing the best they can and just preparing and hoping that games can go ahead.”
Sydney FC hosts Brisbane Roar in their rescheduled quarter-final on January 12.
FFA CUP SEMI-FINALS (TO BE SCHEDULED)
Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Central Coast v Sydney FC/Brisbane RoarAAP