Campbelltown City completed a historic upset over Australia Cup holder Macarthur FC in the Round of 32 of the 2023 edition of the competition.(Image: Ken Carter)

Despite facing many difficulties in the leadup and during the game, Campbelltown City was able to knock out Australia Cup holders Macarthur FC in a monumental upset.

Campbelltown City has had a tremendous NPL SA season, finishing in second place while only recording three losses and 18 goals conceded in 22 games. The quality of the squad assembled in Newton, as well as its durability and availability, ensured that consistent performances led Campbelltown back to the Australia Cup Round of 32, but as the game approached issues began popping up.

Captain and Sergio Melta Medallist Alex Mullen was sent off in his side’s last NPL SA match of the regular season after receiving two yellow cards in the first half which rendered him unavailable for the Australia Cup tie. Also unavailable was reliable central defender Jordan Maricic who got injured during the same encounter, giving recently extended coach Michael Matricciani another issue to ponder heading into the Australia Cup clash against holders Macarthur FC.

Campbelltown City, starting inexperienced players in Mario Orrico, Nicholas Graves, and Connor Centofanti, faced a tough start, with Macarthur taking control of a midfield lacking the physical and technical presence of a player like Alex Mullen on the Red Devils side.

But the hosts managed to stay in the game, valiantly defending their penalty box against a barrage of crosses. If Campbelltown was not depleted enough already, experienced defender Daniel Mullen had to be substituted with an injury just after the half-hour mark.

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Replacing Daniel Mullen, Michael Matricciani called upon James Boffa, a fullback that has only been back from Europe, along with teammates Marc Marino and Adam Piscioneri, for a matter of days, to play as a makeshift central defender.

Despite dominating territory in the first half, Macarthur was rocked by its less fancied opponents when Shogo Yoshikawa caught Rhys Youlley on the ball, dispossessing the midfielder before curling a shot past Filip Kurto to give Campbelltown a lead heading into the break.

Minutes after the restart Mile Sterjovski’s side astonishingly conceded yet again, their NPL SA opponents scoring a goal that looked like it came right out of a professional competition.

Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio played a perfectly-weighted chipped ball to the overlapping Jake Halliday who then cut back his cross to Antoni Trimboli, with the forward making no mistake to double Campbelltown’s lead.

Sterjovski swung the changes in the following 15 minutes, with Matthew Millar, Rhys Youlley, Ulises Dávila, and star signing Valère Germain all withdrawn with fresh players such as Isaac Hovar, Charles M’Mobwa, Ali Auglah, and South Australia’s Raphael Borges Rodrigues replacing them, but Macarthur still found it hard to break down a stubborn Campbelltown.

Campbelltown’s midfield showing in the second half was a far cry from its uncertain first-half self and with the confidence produced by two goals, players like the experienced Joel Allwright, who played for Adelaide City when it upset the Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2014 edition of the Australia Cup, along with youngsters Mario Orrico and Nicholas Graves made life hard for their direct opponents.

Macarthur’s players resulted to hopeful crosses with the Campbelltown defence and Alex Woodlands in goals confidently dealing with the futile advances.

Lachie Rose was able to break down the Campbelltown resistance in injury time, but the Bulls were unable to find a second, failing to defend their title, which they ironically won against an NPL side, after being eliminated by an NPL side in Adelaide.

This result once again showcased the magic of a competition like the Australia Cup. A professional side in Macarthur FC, boasting players that have played at the top level around the world, not only gets to compete with an ambitious semi-professional club like Campbelltown City, but the lower profile players have the opportunity to create historical moments just hours after clocking off at their day job.

While Macarthur FC now faces an extended break as it ramps up preparation for its A-League Men campaign, Campbelltown City advances to the Round of 16 of the competition for the first time in its history.

Following their historic upset over Macarthur, the Red Devils convened to watch the Round of 16 draw and were overjoyed to be handed a trip to NPL Victoria side, Melbourne Knights.

Campbelltown showed in the off-season that it can compete with its Victorian counterparts when it drew with NPL powerhouse South Melbourne.

The Knights find themselves fourth in their competition, and Campbelltown City will be embracing the opportunity to travel interstate to face a strong opponent while flying the flag for South Australian football, and after beating an A-Leagues side in Macarthur without many of its key players, belief will be at an all-time high.

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