Sydney FC 2 (Emerton 85′, Grant 90+3′)
Melbourne Heart 1 (Garcia 24′)
Crowd: 13,125 at Sydney Football Stadium. 13 January, 2012
In their first home game for 2013, Sydney FC needed a win to kick-start their season. After coming from behind twice to earn a draw against Perth last week, Sydney again did it the hard way on a wet evening at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Left-back Fabio returned to the starting line-up, as did Yairo Yau, who partnered Alessandro Del Piero up front. Brett Emerton, Peter Triantis, Ali Abbas and Jason Čulina formed the midfield diamond.
With centre-backs Adam Griffiths and Pascal Bosschaart both out injured, Frank Farina surprisingly started Rhyan Grant, Sydney’s Mr Versatile, in the centre of defence. Sixteen year old Aaron Calver was dropped to the bench, and Trent McClenehan, started at right-back. Sydney’s defensive merry-go-round continues.
On 24 minutes, Farina’s decision to start Grant at central defense proved costly, as he was out-jumped by Richard Garcia on the six yard box. It was a simple yet effective move by the Heart, as Fred and Nick Kalmar combined well down the left flank to open up space for the cross.
A goal down, Sydney looked disorganised and Del Piero started to show his frustration. But even he looked far from his usual self. When Ali Abbas was substituted before half-time, the Iraqi’s anger was clear to see, brushing hastily past Farina on his way to the bench.
Moments later, however, Sebastian Ryall rose to nod home a dangerous Jason Čulina corner. What looked like a timely equaliser was ruled out for offside, and Sydney went down the tunnel one goal down.
Early in the second half, Peter Triantis was brought off for Terry McFlynn. Sydney had showed few signs of penetrating the Heart defence, until Yairo Yau sprung into action.
Sprinting to chase down a loose ball, Yau dispossessed a Heart defender in a dangerous area, before cutting into the box and laying off a perfect pass to Brett Emerton, who lurked eight yards out from goal. With the goal at his mercy, Emerton completely fluffed his lines, miskicking the ball well wide.
It was an embarrassing miss from the Socceroo, but it seemed to sum up Sydney’s evening.
And yet, with only minutes remaining on the clock, it turned out to be a match of redemption rather than despair. Much-maligned captain Terry McFlynn – who has been unfairly jeered all season by sections of the gallery – lofted a perfectly placed pass to the still red-faced Emerton, who poked the ball into the net.
With all the momentum, Sydney pressed for the winner. Deep into injury time, Del Piero found space down the left flank, crossing perfectly for Rhyan Grant to header home the winner. Grant, who had arguably been at fault for the Heart’s opener, will be extra pleased with his rare goal.
Few Sydney players deserve to score the winner as much as Grant, who has been a shining light this season. Grant has been shifted all across the midfield and defense this season, without complaint. When a team under-performs as consistently as Sydney have, players who give their all every game stand out.
Melbourne Heart coach John Aloisi will be disappointed to throw away three points, especially considering Sydney were again average at best. For Sydney, it may well be a defining moment to make a late charge up the table.