Newcastle Jets: 2 (Goodwin 12, Heskey 27)
Sydney FC: 1 (Yau 32)
Crowd: 17,402, Hunter Stadium
In front of a healthy crowd of 17,402, Newcastle put aside rumours of financial collapse to earn a scrappy three points against a disorganised and listless Sydney FC.
With Pascal Bosschaart and Jason Čulina both missing from the squad through injury, Sebastian Ryall moved to centre-back, while Rhyan Grant returned to right-back after a brief spell in the midfield. Alessandro Del Piero returned to the starting line-up after a couple of weeks out with a hamstring strain.
Newcastle winger James Virgili was a threat early down the right wing, and on ten minutes he was brought down just outside the box by Sydney left-back Fabio. From the resulting free kick, young Craig Goodwin swung in a curling shot, which was made to look good by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetović, who flapped as the ball flew straight over his head into the net.
Boosted by the early goal, Newcastle pressed Sydney, who again were ineffectual in attack. With Goodwin and Virgili on either wing, Newcastle looked far more organised and stretched Sydney’s defence well.
The second goal of the afternoon came on 25 minutes, as James Virgili skipped down the right flank, before delivering a low ball across the face of goal. Amazingly, Emile Heskey was left unmarked on the six yard box to tap in from close range.
It was a well manufactured goal by the Jets, but Frank Farina will be fuming after such lax marking, especially against one of the league’s most dangerous strikers. The last time these teams met in round two, Adam Griffiths was guilty of giving Heskey too much space. Ten weeks later, seemingly little has been learnt.
A few minutes later, things went from bad to worse for Sydney as Brett Emerton was subbed off with illness, to be replaced by debutant Peter Triantis. Sydney were without three of their senior players, putting more pressure on Del Piero to lift his side.
As usual, the Italian obliged, placing a delightful first time pass behind Newcastle’s defensive line for Yairo Yau. Bearing down on goal, Yau missed his first attempt, but scored from the rebound.
Despite being right back into the contest with an hour on the clock, Sydney were by far the worse team, with only Del Piero showing any sign of threatening the Newcastle defence. Several times Yairo Yau received passes from Sydney’s number ten, only to waste the chances.
It’s the same old story for Sydney FC. After one decent performance to impress the new coach against Wellington, the team has reverted back to its dysfunctional and timid displays. Frank Farina has come out threatening the players with meaningless platitudes about being ‘a fighter’, but in truth Sydney need far more than fighting qualities to turn their season around.
There is enough quality in the Sydney team to play decent football and win games. What they lack is direction from the top. However, confidence must be at an all-time low. If Farina can get the team performing and into the finals, it will be a minor miracle.
With the next two games against high-flying Central Coast and Adelaide, Sydney look likely to enter the new year at the bottom of the table. Until something gives, that’s where they belong.