Broadmeadow coach Ruben Zadkovich said Chinese Super League giants Liaoning Whowin “didn’t know what they were in for” before Magic’s shock 2-1 win on Monday night.
Veteran striker Peter Haynes and Scott Pettit scored for Magic as the home side took a 2-1 lead into half-time then hung on doggedly until the final whistle.
Zadkovich hailed a “huge” effort from his Northern NSW NPL part-timers against a team worth an estimated $67million and boasting Socceroos Robbie Kruse and Jame Holland, Zambian international James Chamanga and Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah, who signed from Bundesliga club Werder Bremen for a reported $18million.
Liaoning are staying in the Hunter Valley vineyards for three weeks on a pre-season training camp and have games scheduled against A-League and semi-professional teams.
“I don’t think they knew what they were in for, to be honest,” Zadkovich said. “Our boys were up for it. They probably came to Magic Park expecting a friendly. They didn’t really get one.
“Johnny Griffiths came on at half-time in midfield and was getting stuck into James Holland, and I don’t think those boys liked it.
“I could tell that they really, really started to try. They threw everything at us and they got really frustrated.
“I think that’s a testament to our boys. I don’t think they knew what they’d walked into, and they couldn’t really break us down. Don’t get me wrong. Our keeper made a few great saves and it was just one of those nights where we scrapped for it and defended for everything.”
Magic were missing key players James and Luke Virgili and centre back Josh Piddington and finished the game down a man due to injury and with a host of youth players on the park.
“I think they kept a few of their bigger players on the bench and threw them all on second half,” Zadkovich said.
“I had 17-year-old kids out there. I put on nearly all our youth-graders. Dave Ifield started at left back and had a great game. He was fantastic.
“We also had some quality on the ball, and I don’t think they were ready for that. I had a good chat to Jimmy Holland after the game – he’s a good friend of mine – and he reckons at half-time his boys came in and the coaches and they were asking James what division that we were.
“I think that’s a bit of a compliment to the boys because we were a lot better than they probably gave us credit for.”
Zadkovich said the result demonstrated the “beauty of football”.
“It was just nice to see when you’ve got a good group of mates and a good team spirit and you’re willing to fight and scrap for something, anything’s possible.
“Their team’s worth an estimated $67million and we’ve got youth-graders playing out there who’ve never been paid to play anything.
“That’s what I was most proud at. It doesn’t surprise me that Haynesy, Scotty Pettit, Kale Bradbery and others played well. They’re actually really good footballers.
“But I think the biggest pleasing thing for me was the younger boys. They were all just really good. To play for 20 minutes with 10 men against that team, when you’ve got the likes of Holland and Kruse and the two African boys on – the Chinese boys as well are all very technical, very powerful – it was a huge effort.
“You know the odds are stacked against you, but I said to them, ‘Don’t focus on whether someone’s better than you. Go out there and play the game like they’ve got to prove that they’re better than you.’
“It was just a great moment for them, to be honest. For me it was just a trial match and it’s only local-league football, but I’m very proud of them, put it that way.”
Zadkovich, the former Notts County, Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory midfielder whose career ended with a knee injury last year, is in his first year of coaching and already has a Chinese Super League scalp.
“It was humbling. For me it’s all about learning and new experiences as a young coach. It’s more about trying to orchestrate a performance and getting the best out of people, and last night I was able to do that. But the credit’s not mine. The credit’s all to the boys that were out there.
“You don’t get to play football forever, and when it was taken from me, that’s probably the biggest thing I learnt. That opportunity last night – you can guarantee that some of those boys will never play in a game that big again, but that’s something you can never take off them.”
Asked in jest whether he expected overtures from China, he said: “If I got a tap on the shoulder from the Chinese Super League, I think I’d take a few of the boys with me.”
Liaoning face two-time Northern NSW NPL champions Edgeworth on Wednesday at Jack McLaughlan Oval from 6.30pm.