Match Report: Melbourne Victory 3 - Sydney FC 1 - Round 18
Melbourne Victory 3 (OG 24', Rojas 72', Thompson 67')
Sydney FC 1 (Griffiths 75')
Crowd: 26,882 at AAMI Park. 26 January, 2013.
With Sydney coming off two consecutive wins and the Victory continuing their strong form, the Australia Day clash between Australia's two biggest clubs promised to be a blockbuster.
Sydney's squad remained unchanged from their big win over the Phoenix, with the dangerous new partnership of Joel Griffiths and Alessandro Del Piero starting up front.
However, in front of a full house in Melbourne, the home team started the brightest with their quick passing game. Sydney were forced played the spoiler role, trying to hit the Victory on the counter attack.
Early chances for Marco Rojas and Leigh Broxham showed how dangerous the Victory can be with their intricate triangle passing combinations.
On 23 minutes, a midfield turnover from Sydney allowed Rojas to burst into space through the middle of the park. Going alone, Rojas shot from 18 yards, and a wicked deflection off Seb Ryall fooled goalkeeper Vedran Janjetović, who could do little but watch the ball loop into the net.
Moments later, things got worse for Sydney as Brett Emerton limped off, to be replaced on the right by Blake Powell.
Sydney did well to contain the Victory until half-time, but created little for themselves. A few half chances illustrated the visitors ineffectiveness, while Alessandro Del Piero looked far from his best in a crowded midfield.
The second half began scrappily as four players were yellow-carded in the space of twenty minutes, while Sydney defender Tiago Calvano was sent off for an off the ball incident with Leigh Broxham.
With Sydney a goal down with ten men and still half an hour on the clock, the game was there for the taking for Melbourne.
Still, when Del Piero teed up Joel Griffiths on 65 minutes, Sydney had their best chance to equalise. However, after making an excellent run, Griffiths dragged his shot wide, and the danger passed.
Less than a minute later, Billy Celeski threaded a delicate pass through a crowded Sydney defence, allowing Archie Thompson to fire the ball past Janjetović from close range.
With Sydney struggling, Marco Rojas strolled into a dangerous area, and another deflected shot put Melbourne three ahead with less than twenty minutes remaining. All over for Sydney FC.
Not even Joel Griffiths' late consolation goal could boost the visitors, although it showed again how dangerous Sydney's strike pair can be.
The final ten minutes descended into tit for tat fouls, and referee Chris Beath made some questionable decisions as Diogo Ferreira twice brought down Del Piero, once with his elbow. Sitting on a yellow card, Ferriera can count himself very lucky to stay on the park.
The comedy refereeing was then complete as Beath gave the Italian striker a yellow card for an innocuous challenge, before sending off Fabio.
Still, there is little point in complaining about the refereeing. All A-League sides should expect less from referees in this competition, who make mystifying calls week in week out. Sometimes the weird calls go your way, sometimes they don't.
Sydney were beaten by the better side on the night, and it showed how far they have to go to become a serious contender for the finals. Melbourne Victory move to second on the table, while Sydney are still outside the top-six.