Queensland Roar 2 – Sydney FC 1
Queensland Roar 2 – Sydney FC 1
| The intrepid Lokomotiv Cove team, in a curtain-raiser to the A-League match reviewed below, defeated their opposite numbers from Queensland 3-0 at Suncorp Stadium last night.
Perhaps a couple of those travelling Cove members should be considered for a call-up to the “senior” side, in the wake of a disgraceful performance from Sydney FC against a team which had won only one previous game at their home ground.
Ufuk Talay’s injury, and Terry McFlynn’s suspension, forced changes in midfield. Pierre Littbarski’s decision to use Iain Fyfe, out of sorts in central defence, in a defensive midfield position was understandable. Less understandable was the recall of the pedestrian Bingley, and the relegation of Steve Corica to the bench. Surely this was the perfect opportunity for Corica to be employed in his preferred central midfield role.
Robbie Middleby was also reintroduced to the side, patrolling the left flank, while Dwight Yorke was returned to a striking role beside David Zdrilic, who had shown some flashes of form against the Mariners last week. Saso Petrovski, finding goals hard to come by of late, began his evening on the bench, while Mark Rudan made a welcome return to central defence.
After a comical opening to proceedings, Clint Bolton doing his best to help the local officials with faulty netting in the Sydney goal, the game struggled to get going. Neither side managed to hold onto possession for sustained periods in the opening fifteen minutes, and the few chances created were not exploited with any great precision. Hyuk-Su Seo, filling in at right-back for Queensland, put a free kick wide early, and Reinaldo and Buess failed to make the most of good opportunities in the opening ten minutes.
Sydney’s back four, to their credit, looked keen for battle (unlike those in front of them), and a harsh challenge by Milligan on Jonti Richter, who was making regular inroads on Queensland’s left wing, earned him a yellow card. A wag at the Campsie decided that “it was actually for his haircut”, a judgement that would have been equally appropriate had the card gone to Richter. Sydney’s right-back was lucky to stay on the field five minutes afterwards, when he tugged at Richter’s shirt after the little Queensland winger had broken free once more.
The Roar began to take control, as Littbarski looked on mournfully from the bench. A header went past Bolton on 27 minutes, but, to the relief of the men in blue, a foul was called. Soon afterwards, Queensland’s Brazilian import found himself with the ball in a useful advanced position, but slipped at the key moment. His subsequent antics on the turf drew comparisons to his compatriot Rivaldo from some of the Campsie Covers…
Towards the end of the half, Dwight Yorke appeared to have slipped back into his erstwhile midfield role. In the second half, after the arrival of Petrovski, he would indeed position himself in front of the back four, and immobility would not be too harsh a word to describe his activity there.
A dire first half was followed by a second in which Sydney would finally wake up, albeit far too late. Queensland, by comparison, were looking sharp immediately after the restart, with Reinaldo forcing a fine save by Bolton only seconds from the whistle. Again, the provider was the elusive Jonti Richter.
On 53 minutes, Reinaldo was again clear, and this time a superb tackle from Mark Rudan was required to save the day. Two minutes later, Alex Brosque slid a cross-shot onto the far post, although he had been called offside. Sydney were under tremendous pressure, and the breakthrough finally came for the Roar just after the hour.
Yet again, Richter was centrally involved, worming his way down the left wing and putting in a hard, low cross. It fell to Fyfe, whose poor first touch left him vulnerable to a tackle. Massimo Murdocca obliged, and the ball came through to Alex Brosque, who volleyed crisply home.
Littbarski reacted. On came Petrovski, whose introduction ended Middleby’s indifferent evening, while Corica replaced a clearly demoralised Fyfe. As they had against the Mariners, Sydney briefly lifted after going behind. This time, though, the equaliser didn’t arrive.
In fact, Queensland still looked the side more likely to score. Brosque was again tackled expertly by Rudan on 65 minutes, but in the very next minute Michael Baird’s fierce cross-shot missed by a whisker. Before the restart of play, the young David Williams made his eagerly-anticipated arrival, replacing Reinaldo (who, in truth, had been somewhat ineffectual up front for the Roar). The youngster made a good impression on debut, although he played no part in Queensland’s second, decisive, goal.
Michael Baird, surging through the Sydney midfield and riding Milligan’s desperate challenge, picked a pass through to Richter, flying down the left touchline as always. Richter, drawing Timpano out of the middle, pulled the ball back from the by-line to an unmarked Brosque, whose first-time shot, although not perhaps struck as he had intended, crept in at the far post.
Sydney FC’s last substitution occurred on 79 minutes, with young Ruben Zadkovich given his first outing in light blue. He showed enough to suggest that he could be a useful addition next season; only a few minutes after his introduction, he put a shot just over the top, following a corner, and looked one of the hungrier Sydney players on the park. His companion in central midfield, by comparison, looked generally indifferent to proceedings. He was wearing the No. 19 jersey.
A barely-merited consolation goal arrived three minutes from full-time. Significantly, Steve Corica was its architect, moving forward from a central midfield position – if only we had seen him there more often this season – and sliding the ball through to Petrovski. Although the ball initially eluded the Sydney man, a moment’s confusion between two Queensland defenders saw the ball reach him after all, and he reacted quickly, sending a precise right-footed shot past the Roar’s reserve keeper, Scott Higgins.
There was time for a few half-hearted attempts from Littbarski’s side, a point-blank save by Bolton from Williams, and the game ended. Sydney FC’s first loss in the A-League since the five-goal thriller against Adelaide, and richly deserved.
Your correspondent feels obliged to editorialise a little here.
A certain Sydney FC player has recently helped his country qualify for the World Cup.
That certain Sydney FC player appears to be determined to play in the position he occupies for his national team, regardless of the needs of his club side.
He also appears to be conserving his energy to an insulting degree, expecting balls to be played into his feet, making few off-the-ball runs and often allowing himself to be tackled absurdly easily.
He is also being paid far more than some others who are currently putting in a far greater effort for Sydney FC.
The question must be asked: does the current management team have the conviction to spell out some home truths to our marquee player, whose excellent early-season performances seem such a distant memory right now?
Sydney FC: Bolton; Milligan (Zadkovich), Rudan, Timpano, Ceccoli; Carney, Fyfe (Corica), Bingley, Middleby (Petrovski); Yorke, Zdrilic.