NZ Knights 2 – Sydney FC 2
| Our games against the team from across the Tasman have followed a predictable pattern thus far; Sydney FC plays much mediocre football, but it’s enough to garner the three points. |
For much of the second half on Friday, Sydney FC were playing as if the game was destined to follow the established path. Unfortunately, our Kiwi friends hadn’t read the script.
Alvin Ceccoli, after his World Club Championship suspension, rejoined the back four along with Jacob Timpano, while the departure of Kazu allowed David Zdrilic a rare start up front. These were the only changes to the side that had accounted for African champions Al Ahly.
The first half began in sensational fashion; two goals from set-pieces, both within the first six minutes. The Kiwis were first, Sean Devine nudging in front of Iain Fyfe to plant a header past Bolton, via a deflection.
Only two minutes later, a foul on Petrovski gave Sydney a free kick in a tempting position. David Carney’s talismanic left foot struck the dead ball, and a deflection off the Knights’ wall saw the ball loop over Milosevic and into the far corner of the net. 1-1, and the Cove, enjoying the air-conditioning at the Campsie Hotel, came to life. “Super, Super Dave…”
The rest of the first half was, to put it politely, forgettable.
Tactically, both sides left much to be desired. Sydney FC, in particular, experienced enormous difficulty getting their midfield moves going, and if anything New Zealand looked the better side in the opening twenty minutes, with Jeremy Brockie’s incursions down the right causing a few moments of concern. Sydney’s wide players, Corica and Carney, were anonymous.
Although Petrovski sent a crisp volley at goal on 28 minutes (easily covered by Milosevic), New Zealand were creating the better openings around the half-hour mark. Hickey had one chance, Bright another after being one-on-one with Jacob Timpano; the goalscorer, Devine, had an opportunity to double his tally with a header a few minutes later.
Littbarski’s men started to come back into the game towards the close of the half; after another couple of half-chances for Petrovski, the wide players started to receive the ball more frequently, and the crosses started to come in. Nevertheless, the Kiwis were proving hard to break down. A gift was needed – and promptly given.
Frank van Eijs, under little pressure, handled the ball in the box after David Zdrilic had let it slip momentarily out of his grasp. Dwight Yorke casually loped forward to the spot, and slotted the penalty easily past Milosevic. A dispiriting moment for the home side.
One would have expected the Sydney boys to come out firing in the second half, given their dominance in the final few minutes of the first period. Sadly, it was not to be, and the casual approach adopted by the team in the second half – sitting on the lead seemed to be the plan – was to prove costly.
The second half featured some pleasing moves in midfield but very little real bite from either side; the first chance of any note didn’t arrive until the 68th minute, Zdrilic glancing Carney’s cross wide. Petrovski sent another header over the bar a minute later, and Carney, far more influential in the second period, carved two opportunities for himself around the 75-minute mark.
As the game drew to a close, with a tawdry Sydney win looking ever more likely, New Zealand slowly regained some self-belief. Christie fired a free kick across the Sydney bows on 81 minutes, and Kris Bright very nearly caught the Sydney defence napping with a clever run, outpacing Jacob Timpano but having his eventual shot well-saved by Bolton.
On 86 minutes came the unexpected equaliser.
Fittingly, it was Brockie, New Zealand’s best player on the night, who scored, with a searing left-foot volley on the edge of the area from Neil Emblen’s floated cross. The dreadlocked youngster had been left mysteriously unmarked…
In the second minute of extra time, Saso Petrovski spurned a fine opportunity to give Sydney three points they barely deserved. Another cross from Carney produced confusion in the New Zealand area, with Glen Moss – a half-time substitute for an injured Milosevic – flapping at the ball and stranding himself in the process, while his nearest defender unhelpfully headed the ball into the middle of the area. Petrovksi advanced, controlled the ball with his chest, was presented with an open goal, and…sent his left-foot volley high. Cue sounds of anguish from the Campsie, and elsewhere.
That was that. New Zealand’s first result against the A-League’s glamour team, and, it must be said, a well-deserved one.
As for Sydney FC, some serious question marks must hang over the form of certain players. Littbarski is not known for his daring selections, but we may well see some changes for the crucial game against the Jets.
Sydney FC: Bolton; Milligan, Fyfe, Timpano, Ceccoli; Carney, Yorke, Talay (McFlynn), Corica (Rudan); Zdrilic (Middleby), Petrovski.
mikey @ syndeyfc-unofficial.com