Can Cahill break his Cup final hoodoo in Melbourne?

In April 2004, a young Tim Cahill scored the semi-final goal that sent Millwall into the FA Cup final, defeating Sunderland 1-0 in front of 56,000 fans at Old Trafford.

It was an early example of the Australian’s propensity for scoring big goals on the big stages and provided entry into the first of three cup finals so far in a prestigious career.

All three have ended with defeat but there is a fourth chance on November 30 as his Melbourne City take on Sydney FC in the 2016 Westfield FFA Cup final at his new club’s home ground, AAMI Park. 

Important Westfield FFA Cup Final 2016 Ticketing Information

Twelve years ago, Millwall had the misfortune to meet Manchester United, one of Europe’s strongest teams, in the final. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and two from Ruud Van Nistlerooy gave Alex Ferguson’s men a 3-0 win at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Tim Cahill

Five years later and he was back in the final – this time with Everton and this time at in front of 90,000 at Wembley.

It started perfectly for the Toffees, who had finished fifth in the English Premier League, as Louis Saha scored in the very first minute. But an equaliser from Didier Drogba and a second half winner from Frank Lampard meant that the cup went south to Chelsea. 

Six years after, it could have been third time lucky. Cahill joined Shanghai Shenhua in February 2015. 

At the end of the season, the Blues were in the two-legged China FA Cup final against Jiangsu Sainty (now known as Jiangsu Suning after a takeover that came soon after).

After being in the two English finals, this was surely Cahill’s chance. 

In England, both of his teams had been underdogs. Millwall, a second-tier team, were always going to struggle against the might of Manchester United.

It was the same in 2009. Everton may have finished just two places behind Chelsea in third but there was a 20-point difference.

Tim Cahill

Shanghai though had finished in seventh in the Chinese Super League, two spots above Jiangsu, coached by former Chelsea star Dan Petrescu.

It had been a good run to the final. Shanghai had won 2-0 at Meizhou Kejia and then 3-0 at Qingdao Jonoon.

As smooth as those twin wins were, the quarter-final was epic against local rivals Shanghai SIPG. 

Shenhua raced into the lead with two spectacular goals in the first half before SIPG made it 2-2 ten minutes after the restart. 

Demba Ba restored the Blues’ lead, after a Cahill assist, with the team’s second overhead kick goal of the game. A late free-kick made it 3-3.

Cahill was the second penalty kick taker and made no mistake helping Shenhua to a 5-4 win to cue major celebrations on the blue side of China’s biggest city.

Tim Cahill

The defeat in the final was a major disappointment and not least because it offered a place in the 2016 AFC Champions League.

It ended goalless in the first leg at Jiangsu despite Shanghai’s best efforts and after 90 minutes in Shanghai, the deadlock still had not been broken. 

Then, came extra time. Cahill came close in the first period, heading just wide, but with just eight minutes left, Jiangsu grabbed the only goal of the game. 

Dutch midfielder Jammir swapped passes with fellow substitute Sergio Escudero to shoot home and give the cup to the men from Nanjing – cue tears at the Hongkou Stadium.

For Cahill it was the major disappointment in the 2015 season.

At the end of his month however, the Caltex Socceroo will get a fourth bite at the cherry.

After Cardiff, London and Shanghai, it may just be that Melbourne gives one of Australia’s best-ever players a long-awaited taste of cup glory. 

It won’t be easy against a rampant Sydney, but if so, it will taste all the sweeter after past heartbreaks.