ydney FC 2 – Adelaide Utd. 1
Sydney FC 2 – Adelaide Utd. 1
|Record crowds deserve memorable games, and the A-League’s top two sides delivered a cracker in front of a passionate crowd of 25,557, despite very difficult conditions.
Sydney FC came out hurting for a win, and despite stiff resistance from the minor premiers, they got there in the end. Second place secured…not to mention a significant psychological edge going into the major semi-final.
Pierre Littbarski, clearly satisfied with his side’s first-half display against Perth, named an unchanged eleven. Yorke would resume his customary “quarterback” role, while Corica would provide the requisite support for the lone striker, Petrovski. Adelaide employed their usual compact 4-4-2 formation.
The gentle Sydney rain made its first appearance about half an hour before kickoff, and it persisted throughout the game. The consequently wet surface provided plenty of problems for both sides in terms of passing, and Adelaide in particular made more use of the long ball than usual.
After a cagey opening 15 minutes with chances at a premium, a sublime Yorke pass put Petrovski through on goal, but the big man, short of confidence, allowed Beltrame to save with his legs. Corica, too, found himself with a route to goal two minutes later, but hesitated and was crowded out by the Adelaide defence.
The game settled into a rhythm, with Sydney providing most of the pressure but failing to create many genuine opportunities. Rudan headed over the bar from a corner on 24 minutes, and soon afterwards Ceccoli, giving a foretaste of what was to come, slammed a left-foot shot into Beltrame’s arms. Carney, too, almost scored a freak of a goal, his left-foot cross looping up from a deflection and pinging off the Adelaide crossbar.
Sydney FC were on top, but their many set piece opportunities in the first half came to nothing, and Saso Petrovski’s finishing abilities had deserted him for the duration. Two more excellent opportunities fell to him in the first half, both the result of deft passes from Yorke, but Beltrame had his measure on both occasions. “Even Zdrilic is better!” cried a frustrated youngster from the western stand. Somewhat unfair.
The second half began, as it had against Perth, with a gift penalty. This time, however, Sydney FC were the beneficiaries, and this time the penalty kick found its mark.
Zadkovich, after a mercurial first half, twisted his way into the Adelaide area and flicked the ball up for a colleague. Ross Aloisi’s hand made contact with the ball just inside the area: a good call, inamongst a number of poor ones, by the referee.
Yorke was given the chance to redeem himself after his costly miss against the Mariners. Up he strolled, and chipped the ball mockingly down the middle as Beltrame dived to the left. David Seaman would have smiled ruefully.
One would have expected Sydney FC to continue their domination from that moment, but Adelaide are not minor premiers by accident. Only three minutes later, they conjured up an equaliser from next to nothing.
Timpano, in a rare lapse, underhit a pass to Dwight Yorke, and Travis Dodd pounced. Surging through the midfield as the defence backed off, he chose the perfect moment to release the ball to Shengqing Qu. The Chinese player’s positioning and finish were equally impressive…Sydney were back to square one.
Bingley – having another solid game – and Corica set up a headed chance for Yorke on 59 minutes, but our marquee man failed to add to his tally. Travis Dodd, the creator of Adelaide’s first goal, almost scored their second with another foray down the right and a low shot from a very tight angle. Bolton managed to get his legs in the way.
Sydney’s all-important second goal arrived on 71 minutes, and it was worth waiting for. Another gem of a pass from Yorke put Carney clear on the right; he cut inside as usual, and was tripped twenty yards from goal.
An opportunity not to be wasted. Who would take the free kick…Yorke? Corica? Carney?
None of the above. As Yorke and Corica stood over the ball, Alvin Ceccoli carefully measured his run-up; the ball was touched off, and Ceccoli delivered a true surface-to-goal rocket, which flew past Beltrame into the top corner.
Wild celebrations from the players in front of the Cove, and a roar rang out across Aussie Stadium such as your correspondent has never heard before. A perfect way to finish the regular season!
A foul on Zadkovich, already struggling, on 74 minutes meant a welcome return for Terry McFlynn, who propped up the tiring Sydney FC midfield ably in the closing minutes. Adelaide went down fighting, creating a number of half-chances towards the end, but clumsy finishing and the adroitness of Clint Bolton – how many times have we had reason to be grateful for this? – kept Sydney’s lead intact. The final whistle was greeted by a cacophony of joy. No-one, you can be sure, had left the stadium early.
A tired, bedraggled, but satisfied Littbarski was flanked by a determined-looking Ceccoli at the press conference. Sydney FC’s left-back, whose thunderous shot had ensured victory for his team, asserted that everyone connected with the club could finally smile. Littbarski, for his part, hinted that Sydney FC’s new formation, with Steve Corica supporting a lone striker, would continue into the finals series.
John Kosmina was far less forthright this time, merely stressing that the game had been a real fight (a fair description). His mind was clearly on the future rather than the present, one might say…
Congratulations to the boys. Second place, after it had looked so unlikely following the dismal game against Queensland. Congratulations also to the Cove and to the crowd in general, who gave the team such vibrant support throughout.
Hindmarsh, here we come.
Sydney FC: Bolton; Milligan, Rudan, Timpano, Ceccoli; Carney, Yorke, Bingley, Zadkovich (McFlynn); Corica (Middleby); Petrovski (Fyfe).