A brave second half performance was not enough for Newcastle Olympic as they were eliminated from the Australia Cup round of 32 following a 1-0 defeat to Melbourne City on Tuesday night.
Olympic hit the post twice in the second half but could not find an equaliser after City debutant Luke Oresti had given the two-time reigning A-League Men’s premiers the lead four minutes before half-time.
A crowd of more than 1,400 made their way to No.2 Sportsground to see if Olympic could go one better than last season, when they were eliminated at the same stage by A-League Men’s club Macarthur FC. But while Olympic were out of season for their clash with the Bulls, this time it was City who had only started their pre-season a couple of weeks ago.
Olympic coach Joel Griffiths sniffed an upset, with his side noticeably bolder than in their 3-0 defeat to Macarthur in November.
While City dominated possession in the first half Olympic looked solid defensively, with goalkeeper Adam Pearce producing a number of smart saves.
City finally took the lead in the 41st minute thanks to Oresti. Pearce could only parry Jamie Maclaren’s flick on after Olympic had given the ball away sloppily in their own end as they tired before half-time. Oresti was first to the loose ball to tap home into an empty net.
Pearce did well to keep the score at 1-0 moments before half-time, making an outstanding one on one save from Florin Berenguer low down.
Olympic captain Rhys Cooper made way at half-time for 18-year-old Declan Hughes. And as much as City were the better side in the first half, it was Olympic who dominated the second.
City goalkeeper Tom Glover was forced into a save from a Kent Harrison header after a whipped Malik Thom cross from the left.
Thom was the star of the show in the second half, with the American tormenting Scott Jamieson and looking every bit the most dangerous player on the field.
Glover then produced a fantastic save when Jared Muller’s left foot shot from distance took a slight deflection off Harrison.
City then missed the chance to kill off Olympic when 16-year-old Max Caputo failed to tap home from close ranger after Jordan Bos’ cut back.
And Olympic almost made him pay when they went within an inch of an equaliser nine minutes from full-time. A cross from the left slipped off the dewy surface which Glover failed to handle, with the ball coming back off the crossbar.
City attacker Mathew Leckie appealed for a penalty shortly after only for it to be waved away, with Caputo having a goal ruled out for offside with three minutes to play.
Olympic continued to push for an equaliser but were unable to find one despite their best efforts, with Pearce even joining one final attack to no avail.
The result means Northern NSW Football will have no representative in the round of 16, after Broadmeadow Magic and Newcastle Jets were eliminated by Bentleigh Greens and Adelaide United respectively last month.
Olympic will turn their attention to Adamstown Rosebud in round 21 of the NPL Men’s NNSW competition on Saturday.