Sainsbury sets sights on Europa after Cup heartbreak

Socceroo defender Trent Sainsbury has spoken of his heartbreak after his club PEC Zwolle was upset in the final of the Dutch Cup by FC Groningen.

Former Manchester City striker Albert Rusnak scored twice in the second half to seal the 2-0 win and claim FC Groningen’s first-ever piece of silverware.

PEC Zwolle were the favourites in the decider after winning the 2014 Cup final against Ajax, which Sainsbury missed through injury.

The Australian international started Sunday’s final on the bench and was brought on in the second half.

Sainsbury told FourFourTwo he had mixed emotions after the match.

“It was a a range of feelings and emotions from emptiness to disbelief and anger,” he said.

“Its hard to describe losing such an important game. After the first half it was 0-0 and pretty even. Then they had a break down the right wing, the cross took a deflection straight to their player who hit a shot which deflected straight into the bottom corner.

“The second was pure counter attack as we pressed for the equalizer. Three vs four at the back and they picked out the spare man who finished the move. At the end of the day I don’t think we showed our best.

“In the games that matter most you must produce your best or face an unhappy final whistle. It was a great opportunity missed personally,  as a team and a club.”

FC Groningen, who sit just four points below PEC Zwolle on the Erevidisie ladder, qualify autmatically for next season’s Europa League with their Cup triumph.

Sainsbury’s club can still qualify for the Europa League as they sit in seventh place with two games of the regular season left. The teams that finish fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh playoff for a spot in the competition.

“Our focus will be to finish off the season in the highest possible position and set a new club record,” Sainsbury said.

“Then we focus on playoff for Europe. It would be a massive achievement for this club and for the players. I hope we make it most of all for the fans because they deserve it.

The 23-year old has watched closely the feats of Socceroo teammate and fellow former Central Coast Mariner, Matt Ryan, in the Europa League this year.

“I’ve been watching every game of Maty's Europa League canpaign,” Sainsbury said. “They did extremely well to get to where they did.”

Sainsbury, who was a key part of Australia’s 2015 Asian Cup winning campaign, may possibly pull out of the Socceroo’s first World Cup qualifiers coming next month depending on the state of his body. The centre back has had a busy load with club and country this season.

“At the moment my body is screaming for some down time,” he admitted.

“My hamstrings haven’t been 100 per cent since before the Asian Cup so I would like to get back to best form physically. On the other hand I’ll always be committed to my country as long as I feel I can benefit the team.

“It’s a difficult juggling act trying to get optimum rest for your body and mind and also keeping your spot in the national team. I will wait and see how the rest of the season plays out and how my body is feeling and make a judgement call from then on.”