Sydney FC 2 – Melbourne Victory 1
Sydney FC 2 – Melbourne Victory 1
| Finally, it has arrived. A Sydney FC performance to be thoroughly proud of, just in time for the World Club Championship.
Perhaps it was the opposition that lifted Littbarski’s boys – a 5-0 thumping, even as a distant memory, can certainly spur a team to a vengeful performance – or perhaps it was the occasion; Kazu’s last appearance before the Sydney crowd, the last game before the season break and the trip to Japan…
Whatever the cause, Sydney were a team transformed, playing some marvellous football for much of the evening.
Again, there was a distinctly Japanese flavour to Aussie Stadium before the game; the Kazu banners were still there (including, touchingly, a small placard with “Kazu” written carefully in Hiragana script, held aloft by a trio of youngsters angling for attention from the cameras), and the Japanese media contingent were lurking with intent in front of the players’ tunnel. Kazu, although perhaps not at his best, would do enough to please them.
A few Melbourne supporters had made their way up north as well, and a conspicuous (if rather small) “5-0” banner made an unwelcome appearance before kickoff. As, disappointingly, did a flare, filling the western side of the stadium with acrid fumes for the opening few minutes of the game. Bad form, gentlemen.
Mark Milligan retained his place in the side despite looking a little short of pace in Adelaide; he would repay his manager’s faith handsomely. Dwight Yorke continued his stay in midfield, although Ufuk Talay, after a poor performance at Hindmarsh, made way for the now-healthy Corica.
Archie Thompson gave a grim reminder of his exploits at Aussie Stadium earlier in the season with a good run and shot in the very first minute, forcing Bolton into a save (although, oddly enough, a goal-kick was awarded). Then a mistake by Timpano allowed the little man through again; Clint the Dependable was there to cover once more.
From this point onwards, Melbourne adopted strangely craven tactics. Only Thompson and Allsopp came upfield regularly in the first half, and Sydney FC took control as a result. A nice ball from Kazu through to Corica came to nought, but a far better chance arrived on 14 minutes; a cleverly-taken corner from Yorke reached an unmarked Ceccoli, who powered a tremendous volley at goal, forcing an equally good save from Theoklitos.
On 24 minutes, following a Ferrante half-chance, came the breakthrough, and a finely-worked goal it was. Yorke, yet again, started the move with an adroit ball forward to Petrovski, who touched the ball on beautifully to Corica, drifting into the middle from his nominal post on the left. He advanced, steadied, and sent a fine cross-shot into the netting on the far side of the goal.
Sydney had the wind in their sails, and the next ten minutes saw Theoklitos under relentless pressure. Yorke, stealing the ball from a flaccid Melbourne midfield, forced a save; then Ceccoli, having a magnificent night, blazed two further shots at goal, both blocked. Another alert save from Theoklitos was needed when a looping header from Yorke almost crept underneath the crossbar.
It was one-way traffic. A cross from the tireless Ceccoli went inches wide of Petrovski; a minute later Kazu hit the post. The Cove was in full voice…
The momentum was interrupted on 38 minutes when Timpano, who had done well following his early blunder, was forced to retire with a groin strain. Littbarski boldly sent on the attack-minded Andrew Packer, whose arrival at right-back forced Mark Milligan into the middle. Would he be able to handle Thompson? Yes indeed.
The second half began as the first had ended – with Sydney dominant. Petrovski had two good chances, one from a free kick from Corica, the other a header onto the bar after another slalom down the left by Ceccoli, matched this time by a perfect cross.
The players’ moods turned increasingly feisty as the match wore on, and the referee was called upon to break up a number of small scuffles. Kevin Muscat, Melbourne’s controversial captain, involved himself in many of these incidents, eliciting the usual comments from the crowd concerning his sexual proclivities.
Littbarski too could be seen berating the fourth official in vehement terms after a yellow card was presented to Terry McFlynn – combative as always in midfield – on 70 minutes. Another move involving Yorke and Ceccoli was almost scrambled home be Kazu a few minutes afterwards.
On 81 minutes came the clincher. Yorke played in Petrovski, who sent the ball temptingly across the face of goal; Carney, rushing in from the right, placed a superb right-foot shot (yes, you read that correctly – a right-foot shot) beyond Theoklitos.
It had been a fitting way to cap an excellent display both from Carney and from his team, and it was a pity that the win was sullied somewhat by a soft consolation goal; Danny Allsopp, having a quiet night otherwise, outpaced Milligan and chipped over an advancing Bolton to give Melbourne’s performance a dignity it scarcely deserved.
A fine win over the old enemy, and a pleasing sign-off from Aussie Stadium for a while.
Sayonara A-League. Konnichi wa, World Club Championship…
Sydney FC: Bolton; Milligan, Fyfe, Timpano (Packer), Ceccoli; Carney, Yorke, McFlynn (Talay), Corica; Kazu, Petrovski (Zdrilic).