The Tuggeranong United coaching staff and reserve players laughed and smiled as they stood together on the sideline prior to kick-off.
Their relaxed mood told the story well, and was befitting of the special occasion they were playing a part in.
Tuggeranong, buoyed by its remarkable penalty shoot-out victory over South Hobart FC in the round of 32, was full of optimism, and justifiably so, having defied the odds to ignite its FFA Cup campaign in Tasmania just a few weeks ago.
United’s hopes of continuing that fairy tale were extinguished last night by Melbourne Victory, but the ride was enjoyable while it lasted and it won’t soon be forgotten by the players, the fans and the community, all of whom soaked up every moment of the spectacle at Viking Park despite the scoreboard reading 6-0 in the visitors’ favour at the end of 90 minutes.
The Victory scored three goals in the first-half and three in the second. Perhaps it should have had more, such was the dominant nature of the A-League franchise’s performance.
Tuggeranong did itself no favours. The magnitude of the occasion, it seemed, was too overwhelming for the amateur side and the nerves of those who started the match were evident from the outset, leading to a lack of composure, confidence and awareness when in possession.
The Victory did not suffer from the same anxiety, and played in a way you would expect any side boasting two A-League titles to. Kevin Muscat’s men were tight at the back, controlled in the midfield and deadly in the final third.
Melbourne hogged the ball, too, albeit Tuggeranong’s inability to hit the target was largely the reason for the lopsided possession statistic at half-time (70 per cent in the Victory’s favour).
The home side’s passes went astray; the short ones were read well and intercepted by the professionals, while the long balls were plucked from the air with ease.
It became clear very quickly that it wasn’t going to be Tuggeranong’s night.
The match was just 11 minutes old when Besart Berisha opened the scoring after a terrorising attack down the left flank. Mathieu Delpierre doubled the visitors’ lead four minutes later from a beautifully worked free-kick and Berisha scored again in the 21st minute to effectively end the contest.
The former Brisbane Roar man’s effort sparked the fear that the flood gates may open, but Tuggeranong, a side made up of tradesman, public servants and students, succeeded in keeping the Victory at bay for the remainder of the first-half.
It was early in the second-half when the fourth goal arrived, however, and there was little Tuggeranong could do as Guilherme Finkler’s delightful free-kick sailed over the wall and dipped into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
Connor Pain had the Victory’s fifth in the back of the net shortly before the hour mark, and Berisha became the first player to net a hat-trick in the FFA Cup when he claimed his third of the match with four minutes remaining.
Tuggeranong was dismantled by a far more superior outfit than themselves last night. You wouldn’t have known it post-game though, the smiles on the faces of the players and the staff, as they had done before kick-off, told the story well of an amateur club enjoying its revelatory inaugural FFA Cup ride.
It’s someting Tuggeranong and its supporters will hold onto forever.