15/04/2024

Louis D'Arrigo scored against Adelaide City, but his restrained celebration was a nod of respect to his family's history with the club. (Image: Adelaide United/ Twitter)

Just over 3,000 people were in attendance at South Australia’s State Centre for Football when Adelaide City finally squared off against the side that was created to replace it a little under 20 years after Adelaide United’s inception.

The magic of the cup worked wonders by just making this game, once a far-fetched dream, a possibility, but it did not stop there.

It was easy to forget who the professional side was early into the game, with City’s Daniel Bressan and Ayom Majok causing the Reds fits but despite their efforts, the scores remained level.

With the Reds growing into the game, a moment of chaos provided the A-League Men’s side the opening it needed to settle the nerves.

A Ryan Kitto cross eventually found its way to Hiroshi Ibusuki whose shot was deflected before it found Zach Clough. The Englishman proceeded to drive a low shot into the back of the net and sent Reds fans into jubilation.

City knew they needed a goal and Paul Pezos showed adventure from the bench, audaciously replacing Captain Matthew Halliday, a centre-back, with Matthew Dawber, a striker playing far away from his comfort zone as the NPL side chased an equaliser.

Both sides missed chances and the Reds maintained a slight lead before an unlikely hero emerged for the Black and White.

Zak Waters, a former Adelaide United Youth player, was brilliantly set up by Daniel Bressan with the former lashing the ball towards goal giving Joe Gauci no chance; a finish reminiscent of a striker at the peak of his confidence, not a fullback.

If the two coaches being previously involved with their opposing clubs in the past and Zak Waters scoring were not enough examples of the interconnection between the two sides, extra time provided another heartfelt example. The Reds began the better side and got on the scoreboard through midfielder Louis D’Arrigo.

Substitute Bernardo used his skill to get to the touchline and brilliantly picked D’Arrigo who restored the Reds’ lead. Interestingly, unlike his finish, D’Arrigo’s celebration was anything but emphatic, leaning more towards apologetic.

D’Arrigo’s passion for football can be partly attributed to his grandfather Joe Camilleri, affectionately known as “Zeppy” or “Mr Adelaide City”. Before his death, Camilleri had dedicated 37 years of his life to the club he loved.

Scoring against a side that meant so much to himself and his family during his formative years was a bittersweet moment for D’Arrigo and it showed in his muted celebration.

Louis D’Arrigo’s grandpa, Joe ‘Zeppy’ Camilleri, celebrating Adelaide City’s Australia Cup victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers with Matthew Mullen. (Image: Adam Butler/80Kms).

An A-League Men’s side regaining the lead in extra time against a semi-professional opposition usually means the match is over, but Adelaide City was far from finished.

If Zak Waters was an unlikely hero for City in regular time, the English dictionary does not possess the appropriate words to describe Matthew Dawber’s impact as a substitute.

A teacher by day, Dawber was thrown into the game while his team was behind against a superior side on paper, a forward being played at centre back.

Despite all the odds being against him and his side, Dawber pounced on a poorly dealt corner by the Reds and volleyed home the equaliser. Dawber’s goal sent City fans into delirium and the game to the lottery that is the penalty shootout.

Despite City’s valiant effort throughout 120 minutes of football, the clock hit midnight for this Cinderella story. The Adelaide United players showed coolness and composure to punish the misses of Jai King and Zak Waters, earning their ticket to the Quarter Finals.

Ben Halloran sealed the match in his first appearance since returning to the Reds.

The Reds may have taken the hard road, but Carl Veart and his side emerged victorious. They may move on to the next round, but it is hard to ignore City’s performance.

Fight can only get a side so far but Paul Pezos’ side showed clear signs of quality and the ability to hang with a professional side throughout 120 minutes. That and the 3,000-strong crowd are great signs of the health of South Australian football.

The Australia Cup is a magnificent concept that has made unfathomable encounters like Adelaide City against Adelaide United a possibility. It is finally time for a National Second Division to give a platform for clubs and players to take the next step, Australian football will only be better for it.

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