Perth Glory 1 – Sydney FC 2
Perth Glory 1 – Sydney FC 2
| Pierre Littbarski probably wishes that Sydney FC could play all their games at Members Equity Stadium.
Perth Glory’s home turf has played host to some of Sydney FC’s best performances, and the first half of tonight’s game saw the side from the harbour city finally play in a manner befitting their “glamour” tag. In the second half, a messy but gritty performance saw the Sydney boys hold out against a determined Glory.
Iain Fyfe, after two costly errors in Sydney FC’s previous two games, was consigned to the bench for the encounter with Perth. This meant a start for young Ruben Zadkovich in midfield; his bright cameo against Queensland had led to calls for his inclusion, and he fully vindicated his coach’s decision to start him. There were two other changes to the starting eleven: Steve Corica came in for Robbie Middleby, and David Zdrilic’s injury problems allowed Saso Petrovski to return to the side.
From the opening whistle, it was all Sydney in the first half.
Steve Corica, playing for once in a more advanced role (to the joy of many frustrated fans), sent a free kick over the bar on four minutes, and a few minutes later his incisive run and pass allowed Alvin Ceccoli to fire in one of his typical left-footed thunderbolts, which whistled just wide of the near post.
With Dwight Yorke, playing in a withdrawn role once again, prompting cleverly from midfield and Corica, Zadkovich and Carney making a number of adroit runs off the ball, the team was unrecognizable from the grim bunch who had surrendered so ineptly in Queensland last week.
Petrovski forced a save from Petkovic with a close-range bicycle kick on 13 minutes. Some thought the ball had crossed the line in any case, but Sydney were not to be long denied; indeed, they took the lead only a minute later.
Carney, on the right but favouring his left foot as usual, was the provider. Mark Rudan, still upfield following a corner, beat a leaden-footed Perth defence to Carney’s hopeful cross and stuck a glancing header past the advancing Petkovic.
The assault continued. A sweet move involving Carney and Corica ended with Petrovski putting the ball marginally wide on 17 minutes; soon afterwards, it was Yorke venturing forward to take part in another move with Petrovski at its apex. This time, Sydney’s frontman put the ball over the bar.
The second goal belonged to Zadkovich, in every sense. Starting from a withdrawn position, he found Petrovski in the middle and began a run into the inside-left channel; the ball was played across the area to Bingley, who slid a nicely-weighted pass through to the advancing youngster. A deft right-footed shot, and Sydney were two up.
Sydney continued to dominate, although the chances dried up towards the end of the half. A brief moment of concern for Bolton on 39 minutes, with the Perth full-back Scott Miller failing to make the most of a half-chance from six yards, was the limit of the Perth Glory threat in the first half. One minute from the interval, Carney spurned an excellent chance to kill the game off, after Yorke – following an earlier shot from Zadkovich – played him through onto an open goal. Super Dave’s weaker right foot sent the ball high, from only a couple of yards.
Perth had looked a listless and unimaginative side in the first half, and it was no surprise when Alan Vest made two changes at half-time. Two wide men, Hiroyuki Ishida and Adrian Caceres, came on for Naum Sekulovski – ineffective throughout the half – and Simon Colosimo, who had picked up a yellow card for a foul on Corica.
Perth Glory immediately looked an improved unit, and indeed they dominated possession in the second half.
They were given a surprising gift on 47 minutes, when, following another fine run and shot by Zadkovich, Milligan – having an indifferent evening – tugged at the shirt of Adrian Caceres as he raced down the left. A soft penalty it may have been, but Milligan can hardly be absolved of all blame…
Nevertheless, Despotovski, looking understandably nervous, struck a feeble effort which was saved well by Bolton, diving to his right.
Although Sydney occasionally threatened on the break – Carney’s right foot again failed him on 49 minutes – Perth looked ever more dangerous, and on 53 minutes they clawed a goal back.
A weak Sydney clearance reached Ishida on the right, and his precise cross found Despotovski lurking, unmarked, five yards from goal. The Sydney defence had pushed up, presuming Despotovski offside; it wasn’t so, and this time the big striker’s right foot found its mark.
Perhaps the best chance for Perth to equalise the game came eight minutes later. A high ball over the top reached Mori, and the offside flag stayed down. Bolton, advancing shrewdly off his line, did enough to put Perth’s veteran striker off his stride. Mori shot wildly over the top.
Although Sydney’s midfield were turning over possession far more frequently in the second half, Perth were finding chances hard to come by. Rudan and Timpano were rocks in the centre of defence, while Bolton, a busy man in the second half, was alert to any through balls from the dominant Perth midfield.
A shot from Caceres on 82 minutes, well saved by Bolton, was Perth’s last realistic chance. By the final whistle, although the home fans could be pleased with their team’s effort in the second half, most would have realised that Perth Glory had not done nearly enough to win.
As for Sydney FC: hats off to the boys for an outstanding performance in the first half. Hats off to Pierre Littbarski for finally employing Steve Corica in an appropriate role. Hats off to Mark Rudan, who has responded to a long period on the outer with some commanding performances in central defence. None more so than tonight. Sydney FC: Bolton; Milligan, Rudan, Timpano, Ceccoli; Carney, Yorke (Fyfe), Bingley, Zadkovich (Packer); Corica; Petrovski.