HAKOAH Sydney City East FC’s fairytale run through the Westfield FFA Cup came to an end in the Round of 32 on Tuesday night, after a 2-1 defeat to the Palm Beach Sharks at a chilly Hensley Field.
The Sharks showed why the side is sitting on top of the Queensland National Premier League ladder and led by 2-0 after just 20 minutes, with Daniel Dragicevic finishing clinically from inside the box and former A-league player Kristian Rees powering in a header off a corner.
Down by two goals, Hakoah seemed over-awed on the national stage.
But the NSW Stage League 1 club bounced back from early woes and finished the first-half with a spell of possession and attacking play. Jordan Mundell and Joseph Dingwall caused problems for the Sharks defence and came close to scoring on several occasions, while captain Neil Jablonski and Michael Katz turned the screws defensively.
With the blustery climate playing havoc, Hakoah coach Mark Robertson made a tactical change before halftime, bringing on Futsalroo Jarrod Basger to encourage a more direct approach to goals.
After the break, Palm Beach nearly extended its lead to 3-0 when Hakoah’s keeper Daniel Conway got down quickly at the back post to deny Nik Mirkovic.
A crowd of well over 1000 parochial Hakoah supporters — including FFA chairman and Westfield founder Frank Lowy — packed the Hensley stands, braving the wet and windy conditions to provide a buzzing atmosphere.
They were rewarded 15 minutes into the second half, when marquee striker Lloyd Osuwu pegged one back for the underdogs. A swift counter-attack saw Jablonski tear up the right-wing before whipping in a long cross, which fell perfectly for the oncoming Osuwu, whose composed volley gave Hakoah’s fans hope for a comeback.
Palm Beach’s Chris Lucas had a golden chance to restore his side’s two-goal buffer when he was played through a long pass, but he fired high over the bar after beating the on-rushing Conway.
This left the door slightly ajar for Hakoah and they almost made Lucas pay for his miss. The fans were on the edge of their seats as several late scrambles in the Palm Beach area resulted in half-chances for Osuwu and then Gavin Macpherson.
But there was no way through for Hakoah, and the final whistle sent the 1968 Australian Cup winners tumbling out of the 2014 edition while the Sharks advance into the round of 16.