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Adelaide Utd. 2 – Sydney FC 1

Adelaide Utd. 2 – Sydney FC 1

Before last season’s grand final, Sydney FC played three matches in a row against John Kosmina’s pragmatic Adelaide United team. They were tight, ill-tempered encounters, with Sydney prevailing in the two games at Aussie by the odd goal in three.

On Friday night at WIN Stadium, the result was again 2-1. This time, though, it was Adelaide who came away smiling.

It was not a match that Alvin Ceccoli will remember at all fondly; our doughty left-back was dismissed just after the half-time whistle, for aiming a verbal spray at the unimpressive referee Mark Shield.

Terry Butcher saw no reason to alter his formation after last Sunday’s superb performance against Perth; Mark Milligan remained in midfield (although he would move back into defence after half-time), and Nikolai Topor-Stanley, whose reputation is growing with every appearance in a sky blue shirt, again partnered Mark Rudan in the centre of defence.

The Adelaide side had a familiar look, although last season’s striking pair of Rech and Qu were both absent. Carl Veart was used up front, with Greg Owens in support, and young Jason Spagnuolo was the only other off-season addition to grace Adelaide’s starting eleven. He was to have an influential evening on the left side of midfield.

Although not as numerous as they were on Sunday, the Cove certainly made their presence felt from their new position in the southern stand. Sydney FC’s players were regaled with lovingly-prepared individual chants during the warm-up, and the noise emanating from behind the southern goal on ten minutes was enough to prompt a local youngster sitting behind me to cry “Let’s get in there!” to his mate. Gentlemen, you would be most welcome. The game took a little while to get going. Petrovski, beating Valkanis for pace, sent a lob over both Bajic and the crossbar on five minutes; seven minutes later, at the other end, the lively Spagnuolo manoeuvred himself goal-side of Iain Fyfe, again playing at right-back, and managed to get a shot away. It, too, went high. It was cagey stuff; both midfields were tightly packed (Carney, once again, was drifting into the centre on a regular basis), and for both sides it became a case of waiting for the opposition error. Alas, it was Sydney FC who obliged; Terry McFlynn was dispossessed in midfield by Spagnuolo, who broke down the left and centred for Owens; the latter laid the ball off cleverly for Travis Dodd, who sent a crisp right-footed shot beyond Bolton.

Sydney were not exactly stung into action, but they did manage a couple of half-chances in the next few minutes. First Rudan, advancing into midfield, sent a superb long ball through to Corica, who nudged the ball across the area for Brosque to shave the Adelaide bar. A few minutes later, again Sydney used the direct route: Terry McFlynn’s floater from midfield found Carney, whose headed flick-on was knocked against his own post by Robert Cornthwaite.

These, however, were meagre pickings compared with the chance that arrived on 35 minutes. Adelaide, for once, had committed a number of men upfield, and Petrovski managed to put himself clean through the back four. He had an eternity in which to advance and line up his shot, but sadly he was denied a goal in front of his hometown crowd; Bajic covered his angles well, and Petrovski shot wide. It looked like Adelaide might double their lead on 41 minutes, when Greg Owens made a fine run in the inside-left channel and received a well-weighted through-ball; his curling shot evaded Bolton, but struck the far post. Sydney’s equalizer, on 43 minutes, resulted from another breakaway. Again, it was Petrovski who was centrally involved; advancing on goal in a three-on-two situation, he had Carney to his left and Corica on the right. He chose the latter option for a lay-off, and Corica’s shot, though blocked by Bajic, reached Carney at the far post. Super Dave bundled the ball home. Sydney FC might have been able to go into the sheds in confident mood, but Ceccoli’s outburst instead rendered the second half a worrisome prospect. In the event, Sydney would acquit themselves marvellously well with ten men. Topor-Stanley filled the breach at left-back, Fyfe consequently moving into the middle, where he looked far more at ease, and Milligan resuming his duties at right-back.

One could have been forgiven for thinking that Sydney were using two men on the left in the second half, so effectively did Topor-Stanley fulfil both defensive and attacking functions on the left.

A pass inside from Corica gave Brosque a half-chance on 51 minutes, and eight minutes later a long ball allowed our signing from the Roar to use his pace to good effect; only a fine covering tackle from Cornthwaite prevented Brosque from getting away a point-blank shot on goal.

Sydney’s tactical juggling had meant that Brosque played as an out-and-out striker in the second half, and he was joined up front on 62 minutes by Jeremy Brockie, who replaced Petrovski. John Kosmina too was experimenting, bringing Travis Dodd further infield…a surprising move, given Adelaide’s numerical superiority and their subsequent need for width… Sydney’s best chance to pull off an unlikely victory arrived on 72 minutes. Cutting in from the right and making his way irresistibly across the edge of the 18-yard box, Carney delivered a choice through-ball to Brockie; once again, however, Bajic was alert, saving impressively from the New Zealander’s shot. Carney carved himself a chance from the resulting corner, whacking the ball at Bajic from midfield after he’d swiftly turned his man. Kosmina brought Kristian Rees on for Aloisi; it seemed a strange move at the time, but it paid off in no uncertain terms, as Rees prevented what seemed like inevitable extra time by heading powerfully home from a Spagnuolo corner, in the final minute of normal time. Bolton, on the verge of a Socceroo appearance, might not want to remember his positioning for the goal…

It was a sad end to the fight, but Sydney can take heart from the fact that they took the game manfully to Adelaide in the second half…and definitely looked the better side, even with a man less.

Sydney FC: Bolton; Fyfe, Rudan, Topor-Stanley, Ceccoli; Milligan, McFlynn; Brosque, Corica (Zdrilic), Carney (Middleby); Petrovski (Brockie).

by Mikey

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