Sydney FC 0 – Perth Glory 0
| This, Sydney’s first 0-0 draw since the pre-season encounter with the Roar in Cairns, was a game massively overshadowed by the tumultuous events of Wednesday night, in every way. |
Socceroo shirts almost outnumbered Sydney FC’s sky blue strips on Driver Avenue in the lead-up to the game. Inside the stadium, the talk was all of Bresciano’s goal, Aloisi’s decisive penalty, the benign influence of Guus Hiddink. The imaginative away fans, immediately after kickoff, assailed the Sydney faithful with the question “Are you Uruguay in disguise?”. An unfortunate coincidence of colour!
Nevertheless, the presence of Japanese photographers dotted around the stadium reminded us all that today was about Sydney FC…and more particularly about a man who would be starting in our colours for the first time.
It proved to be a straight swap; Kazu took the place of Zdrilic, with Yorke consigned to the bench after his own midweek heroics with Trinidad and Tobago. Jacob Timpano’s injury forced a defensive change, Matt Bingley moving in beside Iain Fyfe in central defence, thereby allowing Terry McFlynn to return to the starting eleven.
Steve McMahon’s Perth team also bore the mark of some enforced tactical tinkering; McMahon jnr. dropped into the back four, with Matt Horsley playing in a central defensive role; he was to have an excellent evening there. In goal, young Milan Jovanic replaced the flu-ridden Petkovic.
Again a familiar face beamed around Aussie Stadium prior to kickoff; the organisers had thoughtfully invited Craig Johnston this time, the man for whom the victory on Wednesday meant so much. He was also able, in passing, to exchange friendly greetings with the opposition coach, his old clubmate at Liverpool.
After Johnston’s exit, and a huge cheer for the Johnny Warren banner which had made its first outing at Telstra Stadium a few days earlier, hostilities commenced.
The first half set the pattern for the match in many ways, with Sydney often having the better periods of possession, but Perth creating the more clear-cut chances. After only four minutes Damian Mori, his contractual issues with his club now settled, bustled past Fyfe to put in a shot. His strike partner, Bobby Despotovski, put the ball onto the bar soon after, following a fine run out of defence by Horsley. Despotovski was involved again a couple of minutes later, playing in Billy Celeski whose shot was covered smartly by Bolton.
Although Kazu was showing some deft touches and Petrovski, as always, was battling as if his life depended on the outcome of the game, it was a sterile opening twenty minutes for Sydney FC. David Carney was again struggling to find openings on the right, and found himself regularly in the defensive half; Steve Corica, on the other wing, was getting little change out of Perth’s makeshift fullback.
From the half-hour mark, things started to look a little brighter, although the visitors would hit the bar again on 32 minutes via a ballooning lob from Nick Ward. Carney almost scored directly from a corner, and a couple of minutes later Corica caused some concern in the Perth defence with a shot from the corner of the box.
Nevertheless, the best move – and perhaps the best chance – of the first half belonged to Perth. Fittingly, it was Nick Ward, unquestionably the player of the half, who started and finished it; exchanging passes on the edge of the box with Despotovski, he curled a right-foot shot wide of Bolton and fractionally wide of the far post.
Perth continued to look dangerous in the second period, although Sydney FC also had their moments, notably just before the hour mark, when Petrovski, with a piece of delicate control and shooting, forced a good save from Perth’s young goalkeeper. On 67 minutes, Sydney’s best chance; Carney, unmarked in the box, blazed a volley over the top from close range, following a corner.
In the meantime, Yorke would make his entry after an hour, to loud cheers from the Cove and elsewhere. Replacing McFlynn, he occupied an advanced midfield position rather than his regular forward role; it was, indeed, an unfamiliar Sydney FC setup for much of the second half, with Carney and Corica switching flanks (although they were back in their regular positions by the end of the game).
On 77 minutes, Kazu’s night was over. Saluting the crowd who had welcomed him so warmly, he took a well-earned rest as Mark Rudan sprinted on. The Japanese star’s touches and vision had impressed at times, although he was, understandably, a little lacking in pace. His wanderings after the game took him in the direction of the Cove, where he was bombarded with cheers.
Petrovski was still there to harry the Perth defence, and a professional foul on him by Colosimo in the 78th minute did nothing to improve his mood; nor did referee Matthew Breeze’s decision to call back his quickly-taken free kick; Dwight Yorke had made a canny run through the middle, and Petrovski’s alert chip would have found our marquee man with a clear route to goal.
Perth’s Adrian Caceres, who had come on earlier for Sekulovski, gave Sydney FC fans some nervous moments towards the close. A volley wide on 84 minutes was followed by a fine run through the defence three minutes later; the substitute’s eventual shot was well saved by Bolton, who had another fine night. In addition to his sure handling, his distribution from the back had been thoughtful and accurate throughout.
Scoreless it finished. Littbarski, not without good reason, spoke of his team gaining a point rather than dropping two; he added, darkly, that there were “too many players below their normal level”…one wonders if this foreshadows any personnel changes before next week’s encounter with the high-flying Adelaide side. He noted, too, that everyone seemed distracted by the World Cup qualifying situation.
There are worse distractions…
Sydney FC: Bolton; Packer, Fyfe, Bingley, Ceccoli; Carney, Talay, McFlynn (Yorke), Corica; Kazu (Rudan), Petrovski (Zdrilic).
mikey @ syndeyfc-unofficial.com