A Thomas Barforosh-inspired Moreland Zebras have comprehensively outclassed Magpies Crusaders in front of 1,325 fans at CB Smith Reserve, propelling themselves into the FFA Cup Quarter Finals, and becoming the first NPL2 side to do so in the competition’s history.
Two first-half headers from the Zebras’ talisman attacker put Moreland in command, and there was no reprieve for the NPL Queensland strugglers, who were reduced to 10 men in the second half following a retaliatory foul by young striker Kyren Walters.
Zebras coach Fausto de Amicis was forced to put faith in his reserves and youngsters, with target man Nick Niagorian suspended, and captain Cameron Watson, midfielder Davide Cardamone and defender Nick Symeoy all missing through injury. 16 year-old Lucien Ibanda started at right fullback, while the ever-versatile Tremayne Sadler was pushed all the way from centre back to the left of the front three.
For the Magpies Crusaders, the occasion was a welcome chance to put their disappointing NPL form behind them. The Glenella-based side have conceded an astonishing 92 goals in 26 games, hovering just a point outside the relegation zone.
Moreland quickly asserted dominance on their home pitch, playing sharp possession football and dictating the pace of the game.
Their breakthrough came in the 19th minute, after a corner kick was half cleared to the edge of the box. Jacob Williams whipped in a cross into a dangerous area, and Barforosh was in the right place to glance a header home to the near post.
Magpies Crusaders responded immediately, with bustling forward Michael Lyall playing a quick one-two with his strike partner Walters, and blasting wide with his left foot.
Barforosh doubled his tally in the 27th minute, after being left in acres of space between the Magpies centre backs.
Zebras fullback Shaun Timmins was released down the left flank after a neat passing combination in the centre of the park, and none of the Magpies defenders came to apply pressure, allowing him to pick out the unmarked head of Barforosh on the edge of the six-yard box. The striker duly obliged with a powerful header beyond Mitch Wright to make it 2-0.
Mackay and Whitsundays thought they’d found a lifeline on the stroke of halftime when Mitch Herrmann’s free kick found Kyren Walters, who leapt impressively to head past Chalmers. However, the 18 year-old’s joy turned immediately to anguish as the assistant’s flag denied him his goal.
The second half began much the same as the first, with Zebras controlling proceedings. Sadler strode forward after a 50th minute midfield turnover and shot from distance, with his low drive clipping the outside of the post.
Magpies Crusaders nearly made the most of a set piece opportunity, with Lyall swinging a powerful free kick just wide.
Just a minute later, however, Zebras put the contest to bed. Raffi Krissian was caught in possession in deep midfield, and the lively Gai Gai picked his pocket, sliding Barforosh through on goal and beating the offside trap. Barforosh, on a hat trick, unselfishly squared to Sadler to tuck it into an empty net and make it 3-0.
Frustrations soon boiled over for the visitors, as Walters saw straight red for a two-footed challenge on Jacob Williams. The foul seemed to be in retaliation, after the youngster appeared to be hit behind play by the Zebras centre back just moments earlier.
Moreland added some gloss to the scoreline in the 75th minute, with Liam Cannell playing a wall pass on the edge of the box, and perfectly placing his long range shot into the bottom corner.