East Coast Heat came from two goals down twice to beat Inner West Magic 10-6 in a spirited 2016 Men’s PUMA F-League grand final at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday afternoon.
It was action from the get-go but the first test of everyone’s nerves came when Inner West keeper Roberto Maiorana dislocated his elbow and asked team-mate Daniel Fogarty to help pop it back in, generating a chorus of gasps and groans from the crowd as breakfasts threatened to make a second appearance of the day.
When play finally continued Magic landed the first blow with a well-taken Aaron Cimitile chance giving Inner West the early advantage, and they got a helping hand from Heat’s Grant Lynch who guided the ball into his own net a minute later to put Magic two up.
The gap was halved in the blink of an eye as Chris Zeballos unleashed from the left past Maiorana to bring East Coast back into the contest with only five minutes played, Heat unfortunate not to level it up following a series of missed opportunities in front of goal, while Maiorana did well to tip wide Shervin Adeli’s one-on-one break.
East Coast custodian Peter Spathis was almost caught off-guard by a savvy Mark Symington full-court shot that threatened to lob the glovesman, Spathis getting a fingertip on the ball as he launched himself backward to push it just wide of the post.
Both keepers were instrumental in keeping matters unchanged as chances fell at both ends and it took a moment of Daniel Martinez brilliance to add to the score, the Inner West playmaker rounding a defender and then Spathis to pop it in for a 3-1 lead seven minutes from the break, and it was 4-1 moments later when a delightful Cimitile lob landed perfectly for a sprinting Fogarty to calmly slot through Spathis’ legs.
Heat weren’t frazzled and a great Adeli snap at goal from inside the D brought the score back to 4-2 two minutes from halftime, and everyone needed a rest following a frantic half of classic grand final Futsal.
Maiorana pulled off a miraculous diving save to deny Zeballos from the top of the D and at the other end Spathis was just as spectacular in a terrific double-save to stop Jonathan Barzel one-on-one as the second half picked up where the first left off.
The game took yet another dramatic turn six minutes into the term when Adeli and Lachlan Wright played a superb close-quarter one-two that resulted in Adeli netting to narrow the margin, and seconds later Jordan Guerreiro finished off a sweeping up-court move to restore parity at 4-4.
Inner West had a great chance to retake the lead but found Spathis in inspired form with the shotstopper making three consecutive saves at point-blank range, and instead it was East Coast who found themselves in front for the first time when Clayton Musumeci let fly from well outside the D with a suspected cross that somehow snuck through everyone’s legs and into a small gap between Maiorana and post to lift Heat 5-4 up with eight minutes to go.
The Coasters pulled further ahead when Magic’s Brian Griffin-Colls inexplicably chested a cross into his own net five minutes from fulltime but it was game back on when Fogarty finished off a fifth-man powerplay a minute later to make it 6-5, Maoirana following up with an acrobatic save to stop Heat’s Jamie Dib from scoring and keep Inner West in the contest, and it was all level again two minutes from the end when Symington powered a byline pass that Fogarty only had to tap in at the far post for a regular-time 6-6 scoreline.
Magic went closest to the mark in extra-time as Symington fed Fogarty on the burst who cannoned his drive against the upright, while Maiorana continued his solid game with reflex saves to stop Adeli and then Zeballos from finding the target, but he couldn’t prevent an experienced Grant from making a huge impact with his trap, turn and shot from the top of the D smashing into the onion bag for a 7-6 Heat advantage as the teams swapped sides for the final time.
Inner West re-adopted a fifth-man approach for the final extra-time period but Futsal legend Wright became East Coast’s hero with an electric shot past Maiorana to take a commanding 8-6 lead that Magic just couldn’t bridge, Guerreiro landing a full-court goal with seconds left and another Adeli goal putting the cherry on top of a remarkable victory.
It was East Coast’s eighth straight win to close the season and Guerreiro’s double took him past Dural’s Greg Giovenali as the most prolific F-League finals scorer with eight post-season goals.
Heat coach Scott Gilligan was understandably happy to pilot his first national F-League trophy but his relief was obvious.
“To be honest we didn’t start that well and they came out awesome, so we were behind the 8-ball a little bit,” he said. “I know that Inner West are capable of anything and I just told them [at halftime] to match their intensity and once we settled we got back to our normal game and went on with it from there.”
“It’s the first trophy win, but the incentive to play in an Asian club tournament is worth it.”
East Coast captain Lynch made a huge difference on the bearing of the game and rated this latest accomplishment highly.
“It was never going to be easy, Inner West aren’t that type of team,” he said. “But we’ve been showing great character all year to get ourselves over the line.”
“All credit should go to Vic Vipers for winning the premiership – that’s definitely our aim, to win the double.”
Magic stand-in coach Miles Downie was stepping up to cover the big shoes of Steve Knight [in Jordan for a level two coaching course] and lamented the one that got away.
“I thought our first-half pressure was good. It’s normal for momentum to shift during the game, the key is to concede as few goals as possible when the opposition has it, and we probably weren’t good enough in this area,” he said. “On a different day we win this game, but congratulations to Heat.”
East Coast Heat 10 (Chris Zeballos, Shervin Adeli 3, Jordan Guerreiro 2, Clayton Musumeci, Grant Lynch, Lachlan Wright, own goal) Inner West Magic 6 (Aaron Cimitile, Daniel Martinez, Daniel Fogarty 3, own goal)
East Coast Heat: Peter Spathis, Mark Brackenrig, Jordan Guerreiro, Robert Ezekiel, Alexander Vlismas, Anthony Haddad, Shervin Adeli, Dominic Cox, Clayton Musumeci, Andrew Luttringer, Jamie Dib, Matthew Mazevski, Chris Zeballos, Grant Lynch, Lachlan Wright, coach Scott Gilligan, assistant Simon Keith, manager Bobby Mazevski
Inner West Magic: Roberto Maiorana, Brian Griffin-Colls, Mark Symington, Daniel Vellonio, Jonathan Barzel, Miles Downie, Harrison Bagot, Dean Lockhart, Shaun Irwin, Matthew Trotter, Daniel Martinez, Aaron Cimitile, Domenic Badolato, Daniel Fogarty, Angelo Konstantinou, coach Steven Knight, assistant Babak Menati, assistant Glen Lockhart, manager Matteo Maiorana
Officials: Ryan Shepheard, Darius Turner, Phil Di Matteo, James Nikolaidis