Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners have already provided several classic matches in the A-League’s short history, however none so one-sided as this.
Lining up without their marquee man Alessandro Del Piero, Sydney started Krunoslav Lovrek in the hole, while Yairo Yau made his first start for the club at centre forward. Within ten minutes, it looked like a tactical masterstroke as the two combined for the opening goal of the game. Kruno slipped a well-timed ball behind the Mariners defence, before Yau beat Matt Ryan with a clever chip.
However, with a rookie backline, it seemed only a matter of time before Sydney FC conceded. Poor defending down Sydney’s right hand side allowed the ball to fall at Tomas Rogic’s feet inside the box, and the scores were level. It was a sign of things to come from the young number ten, and indeed Sydney’s defence.
With the scores level, Central Coast began to take a stranglehold on the game, dominating through the midfield. Starting with Paul Reid, Krunoslav Lovek and Ali Abbas in a midfield three, Sydney lacked energy and organisation, and on thirty minutes the Mariners scored again, this time in a comedy of errors as Ivan Necevski spilled Rogic’s left foot drive, Daniel McBreen took an airswing, before Seb Ryall charged the ball over the line for an own goal. Moments later, Trent McClenehan bundled over Mariners midfielder Michael McGlinchey in the box, and McBreen converted the penalty. 3-1.
If Sydney were embarrassed, the worst was yet to come.
After half-time, a frustrated Ian Crook made two substitutions, replacing Daniel Petkovski and Krunoslav Lovrek with Terry McFlynn and Blake Powell. With an extra man in midfield, Sydney were looking to halt Rogic and McGlinchey’s dominance as much as they were trying to chase the game.
The changes seemed to have an effect early as Sydney started positively. Ali Abbas in particular stood out in the midfield, making himself available at every opportunity. A superb one-two with Yairo Yau led to a second goal for Sydney, however Sydney’s comical defence ensured that the goal counted for little as the McGlinchey scored a cracker two minutes later.
With only 56 minutes played and six goals scored, viewers could be forgiven for double-checking their TV Guide to make sure they weren’t watching the Futsal World Cup on SBS. Look away for a moment and you would miss a goal.
Indeed, former Futsalroo Tomas Rogic was clearly enjoying himself as he waltzed through Sydney’s defence on 63 minutes, dragging the ball from side to side all the way into the net. Two minutes later Daniel McBreen scored again, and then again to make it 7-2.
Considering how poorly Sydney played, it is hard to tell how good the Mariners actually were. To give them credit, however, they were precise and organised in attack, and played to their strengths using McGlinchey and Rogic to terrorise Sydney’s defence. Rogic in particular looks to improve with each game. Adding some variety to his excellent dribbling and sweet left foot shot should put him in the frame for a move overseas sooner rather than later.
It is difficult to find any positives from the match for Sydney. The fact that Kruno, Abbas and Yau were all involved in the goals is perhaps a small consolation. Yairo Yau especially stood out in a dire team performance. Having his pace up front should provide a better foil for Del Piero.
In truth, however, Sydney have a long injury list. With Del Piero, Adam Griffiths, Pascal Bosschaart, Terry Antonis, Fabio Alves, Jason Čulina and Joel Chianese all absent, Sydney have been fielding a patchwork starting eleven.
Next week Sydney will need to bounce back against Melbourne Victory. With the Victory also stuttering, there will be no excuses for another poor performance. A win against Melbourne may allow Sydney fans to forgive the players for this effort, but the knives will be out if they lose.