Western Eagles have bowed out of the FFA Cup, but not before making a good impression on head coach Danny Krasic.
The Eagles went down 5-2 after extra time to Cairnlea in an absorbing second-round cup game at the Polish Sports and Recreation Complex on Saturday.
At one point, the Eagles led by two goals and appeared to be on the road to an upset victory, but the game changed on the back of an injury to new recruit Robert Chelchowski and a red card to Matt Kowalski.
Playing with 10 men took its toll on the Eagles in a game that was decided after 30 minutes of extra time.
“They’re probably a bit fitter, being a higher level team,” Krasic said. “The red card sort of hurt us a little bit more.”
The Eagles came in with good form after an impressive 2-0 win over Melbourne University in the FFA Cup opening round. They rode that wave of momentum into the clash with Cairnlea and were the dominant side in the first half. Goals to Max Perrins and Matt Lodkowski had the Eagles flying.
But 10 minutes into the second half, the tide of the game turned with the Kowalski red card.
Soon after, Cairnlea converted a penalty amid protests from some, but not all, of the Eagles players.
“There was a dubious penalty – some boys reckon it was a penalty, some boys reckon it wasn’t,” Krasic said. “They got one more goal before the end of normal time to take it to extra time.”
Cairnlea took the lead for the first time in the first half of extra time, forcing the Eagles to attack, making them vulnerable at the back.
Two more Cairnlea goals followed and the Eagles’ hopes of advancement were extinguished.
Despite the loss, Krasic has been impressed with the Eagles’ cup form and has forecast a strong season when the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 4 west opens on March 24 against Golden Plains.
“From what we’ve seen so far in our performances, the expectations this year will be pretty high,” Krasic said.
The season ahead will be a big one for the Western Eagles.
They will field a women’s team, to be coached by Charlie Mizzi, the men’s first team captain.
Mizzi’s wife, Cassandra, has been a driving force behind the women’s team and is continuing her recruiting drive.
The Eagles will also have an all abilities team, open to both boys and girls aged seven to 12.
In other FFA Cup results, Keilor Wolves pulled off a stunning 2-1 away win over Altona East Phoenix at Paisley Park to advance to the third round. Daniel Angeleski was the star of the show for the Wolves with a double.
Spring Hills lost a 4-3 thriller to Whitehorse United at Springside Recreational Reserve to bow out of the cup.
Westgate toppled Darebin United 2-1 at Ardeer Reserve and Brimbank Stallions smashed Healesville 5-1 at Club Italia Sporting Club.