METROSTARS’ unbeaten run on interstate soil is over after a 2-1 defeat to Bankstown Berries in Sydney ended its FFA Cup campaign at the first hurdle.
The SA club dominated periods of the national knockout competition round of 32 clash at Jensen Park, but was bundled out in disappointing fashion by the NSW second-tier side.
A goal in each half did the damage for Robbie Saraceno’s men who were made to pay for two defensive lapses and a host of missed opportunities.
Christian Esposito pulled one back in injury-time when he finished off a rebound after his header had crashed against the cross bar.
But it proved too little, too late for the Federation Cup holder.
The loss snapped the Klemzig outfit’s four-match winning streak on the road against interstate teams which stretched back to its 2014 National Premier League playoffs triumph.
MetroStars were dealt a blow pre-match when captain Michael D’Aloisio was ruled out.
Jonathan Negus went close several times for MetroStars during their FFA Cup loss to Bankstown Berries. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images Source:Getty Images
The centre back had failed to recover from a knock picked up during the weekend’s SA Premier League win over Adelaide United youth.
It appeared to matter little as the visitors completely dominated the opening exchanges.
Striker Jonathan Negus got on the end of a delightful through ball by Fabian Barbeiro in the fourth minute, but screwed his shot narrowly wide from a tight angle.
Esposito had his attempted lob blocked by Berries’ keeper John Dimitrakas moments later, before Negus failed to connect with an inviting cross into the box.
The opening goal came against the run of play in the 17th minute.
MetroStars goalkeeper Isaac Carmody looked to have claimed a corner from the right, but the ball slipped through his hands and was smashed home from close range by Jake Bradshaw.
The Berries lost Dimitrakas midway through the first half when he went off with blurred vision to be replaced by Chad Taylor.
MetroStars again went close twice more in the closing stages of the first half.
MetroStars’ Matthew Dawber challenges Bankstown Berries goalkeeper Chad Taylor. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images Source:Getty Images
Esposito headed just wide from Liam Wooding’s cross and Jonathan Negus’ diving effort was brilliantly saved by Taylor.
Bankstown doubled its advantage in the opening minute of the second stanza.Peri Moustakas exchanged a swift one-two on the edge of the box as the away side’s defence was split wide open.
The Berries’ player-coach was given time to steady before coolly slotting past Carmody.
MetroStars almost pulled one back soon after as Wooding’s corner wreaked havoc in the host’s box.
A goalmouth scramble ensued, but Matthew Dawber could only head the loose ball against the base of the post.
Carmody kept his side in it when he saved an Andreas Vais strike with his feet.
Esposito fired a sweet volley into the side netting, Dawber blazed over when well placed and Negus was denied by Taylor late on.
MetroStars kept pushing and were rewarded four minutes into stoppage time when Esposito finished sharply, but it proved little more than a consolation.