Hrustic steps up on Europe's big stage
A decade after leaving Australia as a teenager, Ajdin Hrustic's finest moment yet in his football career came down to a single kick.
And it was an opportunity on one of European football's biggest stages in front of more than 40,000 fans that the 25-year-old from Melbourne was never going to pass up.
Hrustic held his nerve to live out a boyhood dream as he converted a spot-kick for Eintracht Frankfurt in a penalty shootout that decided the Europa League final.
"Two or three of the boys came up to me and the manager came up to me and asked if I wanted to shoot and I said 'yeah'," Hrustic, who came on as a substitute, told Stan Sport Football.
"Put me down, I'm up for it."
Hrustic kept his composure, sending the Rangers goalkeeper the wrong way to lock-up the shootout at 2-2 before teammate and Colombian international Rafael Borre slotted the matchwinner.
"All I saw was a wall of blue, a wall of blue (Rangers fans) behind the goal and I thought 'you know what, I cannot embarrass myself right now'," Hrustic said.
Hrustic is the first Australian men's player to take the field and win a major European trophy since Harry Kewell figured in Liverpool's Champions League triumph in 2005.
As he has done throughout Eintracht Frankfurt's Europa League campaign, Hrustic came off the bench, arriving with the score locked at 1-1.
Coach Oliver Glasner injected the Socceroo into the game in the second period of extra-time in a move that almost had an instant reward.
The attacking midfielder had an opportunity to put Eintracht Frankfurt in front but his left-footed shot was wide of the right-hand upright, ensuring the final came down to penalties.
Hrustic was just 15 when he left Australia, spending time at the youth setups of Nottingham Forest, Austria Vienna and Schalke before landing in Holland with Groningen.
He made his senior debut in 2017, joining Eintracht Frankfurt in 2020 and has earned 16 caps for the Socceroos.
"My family believed in me and it all paid off at the end. I've got no words to be honest," he said.
"I broke into tears after the final whistle and after we put (the final penalty) into the net."
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails