- All the action from Sydney FC’s 1-0 win over the Mariners at Allianz Stadium
- Holosko hits the winner in tight clash
It wasn’t exactly a classic performance but the ruthless Sydney machine rumbles on towards the minor premiership – potentially delivering a fatal blow to the Mariners’ finals hopes as it does. There were chances and a few nice tricks, but the only thing the Sky Blues lacked was a killer touch – although some of that can be attributed to the excellent Necevski, who answered (almost) everything thrown at him. The Mariners defence worked hard to restrict the hosts too, making them work for every opening while offering up only a handful of errors on a poor pitch in an unusually disciplined display. That said, the Sydney strikers were a little off colour as well. Not that Graham Arnold will be too worried. And despite what he says, you can bet he and the team will be celebrating if Victory drop points tomorrow.
As for the Mariners, no one really expected them to get something from this game, but they didn’t disgrace themselves either. It’s perhaps a measure of how far they’ve come since that early season 4-0 thrashing at this venue that they matched Sydney for long periods this time out – although Necevski had a large part in that. With Adelaide up next, they’ll still feel they’re not out of the running just yet, but another defeat in their last few games and it’ll be curtains on another campaign.
90+3 mins: I stand corrected. A corner at the death from the Mariners but – surprise, surprise – it’s cleared comfortably, this time from Matt Simon. It comes back into the box from a throw but, despite a few nerves, Sydney hoof it away and that’s all she wrote.
90+2 mins: It’s game over and both teams know it. The Mariners just haven’t been incisive enough to trouble the hosts. Pain fails to keep the ball in play from a through-ball down the left wing and that could be their last chance.
90 mins: Time running out for the Mariners. They’ve played well without seriously threatening the Sky Blues.
87 mins: Sydney finishing the game as the stronger side although the Mariners are still trying to attack when they get the ball. They’re finding it very difficult get any sort of penetration though. A deep free-kick into the Sydney box is scooped up comfortably by Vukovic.
86 mins: Another good flying save from Necevski, if a little showboaty (the free-kick was on target but lacked power). He pokes it away for a corner, which comes to nothing.
85 mins: Simon uses his muscle to create an opening – and then wins a free-kick about 20 metres out. Dead centre. It might be a little too close to the goal to get it up and under.
83 mins: Buijs delivers a free-kick into the box but a high header floats into Necevski’s grateful arms. Sydney look the more likely to score now the game’s opened up. The Mariners goalkeeper has had an impressive night though.
81 mins: Bobo races down the right and curls it towards the bottom corner – but Necevski is equal to it. A good stop although the Sydney man should have done better. That’s his last act. He comes off for Simon.
77 mins: Sydney FC turning the screw now, the intensity going up a notch as the Mariners look to get back into the game and Sydney look to kill it off. Ibini cracks one off the bar. It bounces just outside the line and away to safety. Necevski didn’t even see it.
75 mins: A very poor effort from Ibini is saved by Necevski. It was struck just at the right height for the keeper, not especially powerful either. Fair play to Necevski for choosing the right direction though. Why did Ibini take it? Very odd. The Mariners are still in this.
74 mins: Rose brings down Ibini in the box, poor defending from the Mariners from a fairly innocuous attack. A shame because Rose has played well. Ibini made the most of the contact but Rose had his arms wrapped around the Sydney forward. He can’t have any complaints.
72 mins: A Sydney corner highlights the differences between the two defences. It’s not the greatest, but it bounces through a swathe of players before the danger finally passes. Wilkinson (or someone in a Sky Blue shirt) would have put his foot through that if it had been at the other end, safety first.
Now you’re talking. A guaranteed booking at the very least.
69 mins: I’m not sure why the Mariners are even bothering with high balls into the box – the Sky Blues are dominating in the air. Another thumping defensive header clears the potential danger. Holsoko comes off for Mariners old boy Ibini.
67 mins: Montgomery with a chip into the box from a free-kick but it’s defended well by Sydney. Again. The game has certainly opened up though, hopefully we’ll see a few more chances in the last 20 minutes.
65 mins: Easy as it is for me to bemoan the lack of urgency and directness from both sides, the state of the pitch isn’t exactly helping the flow of the game. Too many bobbles for the players to feel confident in their passes and runs.
64 mins: Galloway with some nice twists and turns to keep the Mariners out of danger despite the attention of two Sky Blue shirts. The visitors swing forward and, for once, they have men in support. Risky but necessary.
62 mins: Here we go. Pacey Pain on for big Bingham. The Mariners going for it.
61 mins: Bobo with a strike but Rose defends well enough to make sure it’s not a clean connection and the ball bobbles out for a goal-kick.
60 mins: Well we’re on the hour mark and surely Okon will be thinking of making a change some time soon. For all their huff and puff they’ve barely tested Vukovic.
58 mins: Sydney on the attack now. They haven’t done much of that so far this half, although that will surely change as the game goes on. Free-kick to the Sky Blues as Zullo goes down under a harsh O’Donovan tackle. Too far out for a shot. It’s drilled into the box and bounces harmlessly off a press of yellow shirts.
56 mins: There’s been no real urgency in the game since that early surge from the champions-elect. The good news is that will have to change at some stage soon if the Mariners want to get back into this game. Sydney content just to mop up each attack and probe away when a mistake is made.
54 mins: The Mariners have certainly had their fair share of possession, and look quite comfortable playing it on the deck. Until they get in the final third – then they seem to run out of ideas. Story of their season.
52 mins: O’Donovan offside from a chip over the top. Vukovic got there first anyway. Come on boys, a bit more va va voom please.
50 mins: Sydney on the attack now, muscling past Mariners players without really opening up enough space to get a clear shot away. Necevski flaps a little at a cross but it’s harmless enough in the end.
47 mins: Another slow start, much like the first half. The Mariners with a few early touches but not in dangerous positions. They try to find a way through the Sydney defence but Sky Blue shirts close out each potential gap like the cliffs in the original version of Clash of the Titans.
Peeeeep! And we’re back, the Mariners getting us under way. They need to pick up where they left off – and then go up a gear. If they can.
And that’s it for the first 45 – not quite the mauling it threatened to be in the opening exchanges but Sydney will still be the happier of the two sides. Good finish from the Mariners though. More of the same and this might actually get juicy. See you in 15.
45+1 mins: The Mariners are finishing the half well, although every time Sydney get a sniff they look more dangerous. Not much injury time.
44 mins: O’Donovan fails to connect with (what would have been) a fierce header in the box. That could, perhaps should, have been an equaliser. He left Buijs standing.
41 mins: Little bit more excitement to finish the half, both sides looking to snatch one before the break without really creating a clear chance. Sydney still look more likely to score but the Mariners are willing to commit men forward for the first time this half.
39 mins: Buijs blocks a potentially dangerous cross to the near post from O’Donovon. Montogomery whips in the corner but it hits a wall of Sky Blue. Sydney race up the other end, with the Mariners defence bursting a vessel to keep up – and they just manage to keep the danger at bay. Just.
37 mins: Good response from the Mariners, with a spell of pressure around the Sydney box. It comes to nothing, a poor ball to Roux on the right flying out for a goal-kick.
35 mins: Ooo, almost 2-0. Bit of a scramble in the box and it falls to Grant – who can’t get it past a wall of yellow and blue bodies. It falls to Brosque who smashes it over.
31 mins: Not sure if it’s a good thing or not that the Sky Blues haven’t gone for the jugular. It’s not thrilling football at the minute but at least this is still a contest – if the hosts had forced the issue, it could be game over by now. Then again, the Mariners might have found a gap in a counter-attack and equalised. Coulda, woulda shoulda.
28 mins: Sydney don’t seem in any rush to add to their lead, passing it around in their own half. Can’t really blame them. It’s not exactly the gung-ho, attacking flair game the fans love but it’s effective and with this Mariners defence, you always sense they’ll get a few more clear chances without pushing too hard to look for them.
26 mins: Solid defending from Rose to cut out a throughball to Bobo. If that had gone past him it would have been Kenny Loggins for the Mariners (in the danger zone).
25 mins: Bingham fails to connect with a deep cross into the box from Appiah, to be fair he was under pressure from Grant. Have I been too quick to write-off the Mariners? They’re looking a little more competitive. Let’s hope they can make a game of this.
22 mins: It’s a poor ball in, overhit by Galloway, but the Mariners fight to win a corner out of it. A bit better from the visitors. The corner comes to nothing but the last few minutes have been their best so far.
21 mins: Only the most one-eyed Mariners fan would have backed the side before this game, but on the evidence of the opening exchanges I’d suggest even they would be revising their opinion. They’ve had a fair bit of possession but in non-dangerous areas. When Sydney go forward, they always look like they might score. The Mariners get a free-kick off Grant though. This is a chance to cause some chaos in the box.
18 mins: Well the gas has gone out of the game for a spell… probably not the worst thing in the world as far as the Mariners are concerned, it could have been over in half an hour if Sydney had kept the pressure up.
I’m slightly worried about the pending award of the league title (Premiers Plate not being part of me lexicon) to Sydney. Having spent the season having them lauded as, potentially, the greatest side in A League side of all time. They aren’t. The majority of the time they play an overly aggressive, visually moribund game of attrition. A little like the German side in Escape to Victory.
Phil Withall via email
The German side from Escape to Victory? You’ve made some valid/defensible points but egads that’s harsh.
13 mins: A great ball by Brillante sends Grant away on the right but the Mariners defend it well. They’ll need more of that if they’re going to get back into this.
11 mins: Another chance for Sydney but Necevski is equal to the shot. This is not looking good for the Mariners, Sydney have carved them open several times already.
10 mins: Ferreira gets a ball into the chest and goes down in agony. He should be able to shake that off though… and indeed he’s running around a minute later.
8 mins: It begins! Zullo with a fantastic cross into the box, curling it right into the path of Holosko, who fires home. Great ball, great run, great finish. No chance Necevski.
7 mins: Well that almost went against the script, O’Donovon setting up Appiah but he can’t get his shot past Vuck in the Sydney goal
5 mins: Sydney making most of the early running. No surprises there. The ball has barely been out of the Mariners half so far. Here come the visitors with a foray though, winning a free-kick and knocking it around the halfway mark. They’ve put their foot on the ball and are playing it around well. Should settle their nerves. For now at least.
3 mins: OOOooo! Buijs comes inside of Roux, and curls it just over the bar. Great pass by Grant to find him. Early warning sign for Central Coast.
Peeeeeep! And we’re off. This could be a long 90 minutes for the Mariners… or it could be the launchpad for fairytale turnaround that jumpstarts their finals campaign. Can’t see the latter happening though I must admit. Slow start so far. As you can tell by my rambling.
Kick-off looming. The Cove in good voice as the Sky Blues get ready in the centre circle.
Bit harsh, I’ve always found it quite endearing. And if they’re sacrificial lambs for Sydney tonight, would that make them the Laminators? Now that does sound daft.
Despite their position on the ladder, the Mariners haven’t been hammered too many times this season… but they won’t need reminding that their biggest loss came in this fixture back in October, just when the Sky Blues steamroller was hitting top gear. Necevski in particular won’t want to see that last goal again. So here it is.
Before this gets in danger of becoming too silly. Here are tonight’s line-ups. It looks ominous for that Mariners defence.
Bear with me on this, but tonight’s match feels a bit like the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, starring Graham Arnold as Indy, Kevin Muscat’s head as a giant rolling boulder and the Premiers Plate as that melted World Cup-looking thing on a weight-sensitive plinth, which will be triggered if Sydney get things wrong tonight. And you can bet old Arnie will be celebrating long into the night if they do win the Plate this weekend. Right Arnie?
Not a chance, no chance. That’s what other teams want. The other teams want us to celebrate and take our foot off the pedal and that’s not going to happen. It’s about driving this team to be better and better and we know we’ve still got a lot left in us. Graham Arnold
So here we are folks, the race is almost run, the chequered flag is in sight and Sydney FC are so close to snatching the Premiers Plate you can almost hear the drip, drip, drip of Graham Arnold salivating. The fat lady hasn’t sung just yet, but Adele is in town so someone chuck her one of those fake pregnancy suits and she can give it a go while we wait.
The equation for Sydney fans is simple enough. A win against the Mariners today and a slip by Victory tomorrow will be enough to seal the minor premiership – not that there’s any real doubt they’ll claim it at some stage anyway. With respect to Victory, even Barcelona couldn’t comeback from this one.
Richard will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s David Squires’ latest cartoon, buddy.
Related: David Squires on … the world game changers: a recruitment advert for new A-League clubs