Sydney FC 1 – CC Mariners 0
Sydney FC 1 – CC Mariners 0
|And so, in the end, history repeated itself.
Just as they had done in Gosford some nine months previously, Sydney FC won a final against their neighbours from up the coast by a single goal. Except this time, it was the A-League Grand Final rather than the World Club Championship playoff. And this time, it was celebrated not by a happy throng of some fifty prototype Covers, but by over 40,000 delirious Sydneysiders.
How Sydney FC has grown. And with the golden frisbee now safely in the trophy cabinet, the future could not look brighter.
Back from his Hindmarsh reconnoitre, Pierre Littbarski made two changes to the team; one was enforced, Mark Milligan’s suspension necessitating the inclusion of Andrew Packer at right-back; the other was tactical, Terry McFlynn being drafted into midfield to bolster the central pairing of Bingley and Yorke, who had been shown up somewhat in the second half against Adelaide.
Sadly this meant that Corica was relegated once more to the left side of midfield, and Sydney FC’s lack of width on that side was a major contributing factor to a poor first-half performance.
The Mariners made most of the early running; Andre Gumprecht, influential from the outset, slammed a shot wide on 6 minutes. Then it was Stewart Petrie who failed to convert a good chance after Tom Pondeljak had stolen the ball from a nervous Timpano. Another dangerous ball flew across the Sydney goalmouth on nine minutes, Petrie failing to make sufficient contact to trouble Bolton. Plenty of fingernails being bitten in the Cove.
Slowly, the chances began to arrive for the team in blue. Dwight Yorke nearly connected with Packer’s dangerous cross on 16 minutes, and soon afterwards both Rudan and Carney had half-chances following a corner.
Yet, on the whole, Sydney were looking shaky. Ceccoli, forced by the tactical changes to return to his fullback-cum-winger role, occasionally found himself caught upfield, while Yorke’s contribution in the first half was minimal. Bingley, too, cut a forlorn figure in the first period, rendered almost supernumerary by the presence of McFlynn.
Petrovski, for once in the clear, volleyed crisply at goal on the half-hour, but Vukovic was there to cover. He launched a break immediately, and some clever lead-up work from Brown and Gumprecht created another chance for Petrie; this time, the eventual shot went over the bar.
In first half injury time, Yorke attempted an overhead kick from ten yards; although he connected cleanly, the shot was blocked, and Corica put the rebound over the bar from close range. Half-time, and Lawrie McKinna would have been the happier of the two coaches.
In the second period, something happened which turned the game in Sydney FC’s favour. Dwight Yorke woke up.
All the running would, in fact, come from the home side in the second half. Ceccoli, having another fine game, made the first thrust, a surge down the left which was only stopped by a desperate professional foul on the edge of the area. Then it was Carney, on the other flank, turning Heffernan inside out (one of the few times he managed to do this) and advancing on goal along the right-hand by-line. His eventual shot forced a brilliant save from Vukovic.
Corica’s jinking run from the left forced Vukovic into action again on 58 minutes, and shortly afterwards a fine move between Yorke and Petrovski ended with the latter being thwarted within six yards of goal. The momentum of the game had shifted, and on 61 minutes Sydney’s pressure bore fruit.
This time it was Yorke who set off on a sinuous run through the middle, halting his run just within the Mariners’ penalty area. Faced by a pair of Central Coast defenders, he held onto the ball for what appeared an eternity before laying it off sweetly to Corica, cutting in from the left. The greying midfielder, so influential for Sydney FC this season, sent a powerful low shot beyond the diving Vukovic and into the far corner.
One would have expected the Mariners to pound the Sydney goal for the remainder of the game, but the grim battles of the last few weeks had clearly taken their toll on McKinna’s men, and they went out, it must be said, with a whimper.
Gumprecht had a shot from a tight angle on 63 minutes, and Pondeljak, sandwiched between two defenders, tried a lob over the keeper some seven minutes later; both attempts were covered smartly by Bolton. How grateful have we all had reason to feel towards our splendid gloveman this season?
Not even the enforced substitution of Sydney’s two central defenders in the closing stages could improve matters for the Mariners. Mark Rudan, limping slightly, was replaced on 71 minutes by Iain Fyfe, who would perform creditably for the final twenty minutes; Timpano, not fully fit, made way for Ruben Zadkovich ten minutes later.
The away supporters’ bays at the southern end of the ground became remarkably quiet as the match petered out. The brave challenge of the Mariners was foundering, as the Sydney defence held firm. The introduction of fresh legs for the Central Coast side had little effect; Adam Kwasnik, who had replaced Petrie on 73 minutes, was barely sighted. Before we knew it, ninety minutes had passed…
The fourth official held up three minutes of added time. The whistles began immediately; the Mariners rallied temporarily, even forced a corner, but it was all too late. In the midst of deafening high-pitched wailing from all quarters, Mark Shield finally signalled the end of the A-League for season 2005/06. And Sydney FC were the A-League’s first champions.
Aussie Stadium erupted.
Congratulations to the boys. Congratulations to the coach.
Congratulations, especially, to the indefatigable, irresistible, indomitable, irrepressible Cove. The best supporters in the country, without a doubt.
This is mikey, match reporter, signing off for season 05/06.
See you all in a few months’ time…
Sydney FC: Bolton; Packer, Rudan (Fyfe), Timpano (Zadkovich), Ceccoli; Carney, Yorke, Bingley, McFlynn, Corica; Petrovski (Middleby).