BENTLEIGH Greens are SA soccer’s heartbreakers.
The Victorian champion ended Adelaide City’s dream FFA Cup run at the quarter-final stage in 2014.
And John Anastasiadis’ side was at it again last night, dumping MetroStars out of the national competition on penalties after an epic round of 32 clash finished 3-3.
But it might have been a different story for the SA cup winner, which bravely came from behind three times despite being reduced to 10 men following Liam Wooding’s second-half red card.
The match began at a cracking pace as the artificial surface at the Parks aided both sides’ slick passing game.
Bentleigh threatened first on five minutes when the speedy Chris Lucas cut a dangerous cross back to the edge of the box where Tyson Holmes failed to make contact with the ball.
MetroStars sprung to life 10 minutes later as Wooding’s fine run down the left ended with a powerful shot which was well blocked by the visitors’ defence.
The Greens suffered a major blow midway through the first half when skipper Wayne Wallace, a towering presence in the early exchanges, limped off.
Bentleigh broke the deadlock on 26 minutes.
MetroStars failed to deal with a long ball and allowed Kieran Dover to flick a header toward the goal.Ex-Gold Coast United striker Lucas nipped in front of Callum Paintadosi to loop the ball over the advancing keeper and into the net.
The hosts almost equalised instantly as Rocky Callisto curled a delightful low ball to the back post, which Wooding just failed to reach at full stretch.
The second half was just six minutes old when MetroStars levelled the score.
Former Adelaide United midfielder Fabian Barbiero opened up the Bentleigh backline with a pinpoint pass to Christian Esposito.
The Italian-raised winger, who has endured a two-year injury nightmare, steadied before calmly slotting past Ryan Scott.
Lucas burned a good chance when he was played clean through but fired straight at Paintadosi.
The young shot stopper made the save of the match moments later from a bullet Lucas header following a superb cross by SA-born fullback Dion Kirk.
Wooding was sent off in the 76th minute after receiving his second caution in quick succession for a late tackle on halfway.
The Greens made the man advantage count as Luke Pilkington volleyed home from close range from Ryan Paczkowski’s corner.
MetroStars left it until the final minute of injury-time to fire back.
A long throw-in fell for substitute Terry Theodorou who calmly slotted home from the edge of the area.
Piantadosi made three more brilliant saves in extra-time as Bentleigh turned the screw.
But he could do nothing to prevent Troy Ruthven’s 97th free kick as it skidded through a tangle of legs and into the bottom corner.
MetroStars once more refused to die.In the 114th minute, young gun Stefan Simic ran on to Barbiero’s quick free kick and squared the ball for ex-Socceroo Travis Dodd who tapped in to send the match to spot kicks.
Barbiero converted MetroStars’ first penalty before Paintadosi saved from Jack Webster to put the Klemzig club in the box seat.
But Adam van Dommele smashed his effort over the bar for the home side and Simic put his attempt wide to swing the momentum in the Victorians’ favour.
Ruthven held his nerve to seal a 4-3 spot kick triumph and send the Greens through.
MetroStars coach Robbie Saraceno said his players were “devastated” to crash out of the cup.
“In the change rooms it was hard to say anything to make the boys feel better,” he said.
“After the hard work they put in it almost feels like it’s gone unrewarded.
“But we came up against a really good side tonight in Bentleigh who were very well coached and probably above any South Australian team that we’ve played.
“I thought my boys were fantastic in their effort.”