Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin)
The fairytale is complete for Gold Coast Premier League club Surfers Paradise Apollo who have defied all odds in defeating NPL clubs in three consecutive matches, the latest being a 2-0 defeat over Sunshine Coast Fire to progress to the national stages of the FFA Cup.
Goals to Nikki Felizato and Wade Russell clinched Apollo’s passage to the final 32.
The visitors had an early chance to open the scoring after earning an indirect free kick just outside the box. Shoichi Koshimizu zeroed on goal as a result but was broken down by the defence.
It was then Surfers opportunity, after Brandon Gomez delivered a wonderful ball along the ground where Tommaso Confalonieri was waiting at the far post but the cross narrowly fell in front of his outstretched foot.
The hosts continued to create chances as Felizato attempted to tee up Confalonieri then Wade Russell played skipper Bruno Rodriguez in only to be denied by a last ditch Fire tackle in the box.
Koshimizu looked to be the most likely up front for his side. After tussling and being strong against his defender, he forced a save from Apollo keeper Faider Metia.
It was a brief glimmer of hope for the Fire as Surfers continued to look the most likely to break the deadlock. Acim Tomic sprayed a low shot wide then Russell from a corner headed straight to Fire custodian Sam Nickolls.
Apollo was almost undone from a speculative shot from Fire captain Paul Mikula. Sensing Metia slightly off his line, from just inside his side’s attacking half launched an effort that dipped at the last minute with Metia tipping over the bar.
Nickolls was next to be drawn into action. A swinging cross was left by Gomez for Confalonieri in better position with a save being made at the near post.
More nervous moments for Nickolls late in the half as he fumbled a shot from Gomez back into the path of the Surfers attack but thankfully the resulting shot fell wide.
Apollo’s momentum continued after the half-time break. Davide Landoni provided the assist for Felizato to slam home sending the home crowd into raptures.
Confalonieri almost made it a two-goal advantage as he slammed a free kick from just outside the box into the upright in another wake-up call for the visitors.
Surfers’s lead would eventually be doubled though midway through the second half as Russell headed home a ball directly received at the near post from a corner.
Fire coach Sam Saif rang the changes and cleared the bench that did cause a reaction from his charges in attempting to force the match into extra time but Metia was defiant as the last line of defence for Apollo making several crucial saves.
The win sees Surfers Paradise Apollo through to the final 32 of the FFA Cup where they could play against an A-League opponent.
Surfers Paradise Apollo 2 (Nikki Felizato 47’, Wade Russell 67’) v Sunshine Coast Fire 0
Surfers Paradise: Faider Metia, Acim Tomic, Jean Philippe Lasm, Jack Boxell, Bruno Rodriguez, Wade Russell, Tolga Yorulmaz, Nikki Felizato (Shota Nakagawa 77’), Brandon Gomez (Lucas Lefeure 77’), Davide Landoni, Tommaso Confalonieri (Cian Cuba 87’). Subs not used: Borko Tomic, Ken Muur
Sunshine Coast: Sam Nickolls, David McEvoy (Scott Rocker 57’), Connor Hancock, Paul Mikula, Matt Lyell, Grant De Chastel, Brady Cronk (Abe Reeves 75’) , Chris Jancevski, Jeremy Stewart (Giacomo Mellino 67’), Kobe Fuller, Shoichi Koshimizu. Subs not used: Jez Lofthouse, Oliver Blackmore.
Referee: Alan Milliner. Assistant Referees: Mitch Miller, Renae Coghill, 4th Official: Sam Osborne.