The A-League premiers-elect may not have been helped by scheduling or some inclement weather, but the low average is remarkably at odds with their success
This A-League season has been one of unprecedented success for Sydney FC, with only one defeat so far and the Premiers’ Plate all but sewn up with four games to go.
They have scored pretty freely, defended meanly and won convincingly, often against their bitterest rivals, with the single exception of a 1-0 defeat against Western Sydney Wanderers last month. New signings have performed brilliantly, injuries have been scarce and as a result the team has barely changed all season.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/13/sydney-fcs-underwhelming-crowds-should-be-cause-for-alarm
- Melbourne Victory 1-2 Sydney FC at Etihad Stadium
- Sydney move 11 points clear at top of A-League ladder
Another huge win for Sydney, who overcame enforced changes at the back to weather a strong period from the home team and hit back with a killer blow. Michael Zullo was man of the match, and there were just over 30,000 there, which is a bit disappointing by Victory standards. That’s it for now, thanks for following.
Just a last thought on Bernie Ibini. Victory fans won’t enjoy it, obviously, but for neutrals and Sydney it’s great to see him show something of his huge ability again after such a terrible injury lay-off. Not a perfect performance, but he did everything right for the goal.
Sydney’s run goes on, and they are 11 points clear at the top. They are romping away with the title at this stage, and even with 10 games to go it’s hard to see them falling apart. It wasn’t all that pretty, but a typically hard-fought big blue. Victory will be gutted to have let a lead slip, and may have a case about Donachie’s red card, but Sydney were tough and organised, and scored two excellent goals. They rarely look dominant, but they keep winning.
92 min: O’ Neill gets a yellow for time-wasting. Four added minutes. Matt Simon is doing what he does in the corner, and that will probably be enough.
89 min: Oo-er. Zullo tangles with Rojas, then Troisi comes in and takes Zullo out in fairly dramatic fashion. Zullo was sent flying, but more of a barge than a punch, or anything like it. Yellow for Troisi and Zullo, and Victory get the free kick. Zullo out for Sydney’s next game.
88 min: Simon breaks well on the right, but can’t set up Ninkovic, who has run his legs off tonight. He can’t retrieve the ball.
87 min: Last Victory sub, Mahazi for Geria.
86 min: Victory aren’t done yet. Even with 10 they are pressing and denying Sydney time-wasting possession. Just hard to see where the clear chance will come from.
82 min: Now Calver, who has gone down several times with cramp, has to go off, replaced by Dimitrijevic. This means a bit of reorganisation for Sydney, with Brillante going to right back. Calver has done OK after a shaky start.
81 min: Ibini so dangerous on the break! Until he gives it to Simon. His feeble shot goes well wide. Yet to score this season.
80 min: Rojas header on target from a Georgievski cross, but Vukovic is safely behind it. Fair effort.
79 min: And now the second traditional Arnold change, Matt Simon for Bobô, who goes off not looking too happy. He must be used to it by now.
77 min: Replay of the Donachie incident suggests it was pretty harsh. To me at least. By the time he fouled there was another Victory defender directly in front of Brosque, so no question of denying a clear chance.
73 min: Another Victory sub, Georgievski for Bozanic. Then Brosque picks up a yellow for bringing down Rojas.
73 min: Not sure about that red card. Brosque wasn’t really through on goal, and it wasn’t particularly dangerous. Not one where you think instantly he’s going off, that’s for sure. From a Sydney point of view, Brosque and Ibini could easily have worked a clear scoring opportunity. They were lucky to end up with such a bonus.
72 min: Buijs takes the free kick, straight into the wall. O’Neill might have been a better option.
71 min: Brosque and Ibini break, they more or less mess it up, but Donachie hacks down Brosque on the edge of the area, and Gillett pulls out the red!
70 min: What have Victory got left? A bout of sustained pressure here, but not clear chance. Sydney’s defence is holding solid.
67 min: Missed a Victory sub in all that excitement. Jai Ingham came on for Khalfallah just before the goal.
66 min: That was a superb finish from Ibini, he had so much to do, but used great body strength and control before beating Thomas.
64 min: The sub slots it after shaking off two defenders from a Brosque header, and Sydney have come from behind again!
62 min: Berisha puts the ball in the net, but Rojas was offside from Troisi’s neat pass. Well offside, but nice idea. Troisi and Ninkovic look like the game-breakers, if there is one.
61 min: Valeri gets a yellow for pulling Brosque’s shirt.
60 min: Sydney sub, Ibini for Holosko. The conventional Arnold move on the hour.
58 min: Excellent save Vukovic! Sydney are all over the place from the corner, and when it breaks to Troisi at close range the Sydney keeper stands up and makes an outstanding reflex save. Troisi couldn’t quite get the power he needed to make sure.
57 min: Contrary to my predictions, it is something like a free-flowing end-to-end spectacle. Holosko wastes a chance to break, and now Victory have another corner after a mistake from Buijs.
55 min: Dearie me. Sydney let a Troisi free kick drop in the box and only just smuggle it clear. Then Khalfallah’s chip flicks off the top of the bar! Vukovic may or may not have had that covered.
55 min: Berisha, back to goal, has a chance to spin, but tries to set up Khalfallah instead, and Brillante has a chance to intervene.
54 min: More good build-up from Sydney through Brillante ends with a decent cross from Calver that just about clears everyone.
52 min: … eventually comes to nothing after a bit of hacking around in the area. Now it’s Victory’s defence that looks a bit rattled.
51 min: Ninkovic and Brosque work hard on the right and Calver wins a corner for Sydney…
49 min: Quiet start to the half. Eventually Troisi lobs in a free kick, but it’s easy for Vukovic.
We’re off again. Archie Thompson is worried about Sydney’s stamina and second half strength. He should be.
I love the A-League in Spanish.
I haven’t mentioned the state of the pitch. It’s not quite Suncorp awful, but the cricket pitch is giving some shocking bounces. Not good enough (again).
#BigBlue It is unbelievable that the FFA paid to reserve the right to play a final on such a dangerous poor ground. Waste of money.
Phil Withall emails with a dilemma. “Muscat or Arnie? It’s the old Trump or any other Republican situation all over again. How do you pick the lesser of two evils when both choices are dripping in negatives…” I couldn’t possibly comment, but I’m not sure who Trump is in this analogy.
Phew. Graham Arnold will be happy with the amount of battling in the second part of that half, after Victory had a 15min spell where they could easily have gone further ahead. No serious blues yet and only one card, but just as full-blooded in midfield as you would expect. Back soon!
45 min: Just one minute of added time. It’s been frantic.
40 min: Zullo… brings down Rojas, earning more abuse, then launches a long ball that almost looks like it will clear the onrushing Thomas, but he gets his head to, a good 15m out of his area.
39 min: That didn’t quite come out of nowhere, because Thomas had to make a good save immediately before, but Sydney will be hugely relieved because they had not looked very likely for much of the half.
37 min: The cross from Ninkovic, and a superb header from Holosko, Thomas no chance. Good response Sydney!
36 min: Now Thomas’s turn! Slightly scuffed effort from Bobô, but it was going in before Thomas stuck out a right hand.
35 min: Save, Vukovic! Rasping low drive from Troisi after Geria set him with a good run down the right. Berisha called offside for standing in the keeper’s eyeline, but it was a solid effort again (and a decent stop).
33 min: Khalfallah caught offside when he had so much room. Looking across the line! Unforgivable! Sydney exposed again down the left.
31 min: Buijs fires in a dangerous free kick and Geria has to head away almost from Thomas’s hands. Well, he didn’t have to, because Thomas probably would have collected it, but he did anyway.
30 min: Zullo now getting roasted by the home crowd, then cheered when his cross from the left is overhit. Not the player you would have picked as pantomime villain.
28 min: Geria gets a yellow for sliding through Zullo, which doesn’t improve the Sydney fullback’s mood.
26 min: Zullo slings off at a teammate (Brosque?) for not giving him a short option down the left. Early days, but the strain is showing a bit.
22 min: Rojas tries to lob Vukovic first time from a distance out on the right, but Vukovic is aware. Then he saves from much closer range from the same player! And has to punch the corner away, not 100% convincingly. Victory right on top here.
21 min: Rojas gets away down the right and Sydney are nervous as hell when the ball comes across. Eventually they bundle it away, but there’s some anxiety there.
20 min: That is the earliest goal Sydney have conceded this season.
18 min: That all came down the left again, with Calver caught out again by Khalfallah. Buijs didn’t cover quickly enough and Troisi was left in an alarming amount of space to guide it past Vukovic.
17 min: Troisi slots home from Victory’s first proper opening.
10 min: Sydney incidentally in an unusual all sky blue kit tonight. A little bit Coventry City, a little bit late 70s Man City. Which probably isn’t the effect they’re hoping for.
9 min: “You can’t let Sydney start clamping their jaws collectively on your possession play.” Thanks Harps.
8 min: Berisha tests out Buijs with a slight nudge after the ball has gone. The Dutchman does not endear himself to the crowd by going down theatrically with a couple of extra rolls.
7 min: Chance! From a long throw the ball gets to Holosko way too easily, but he scuffs it dreadfully.
5 min: Cross from the right for Victory is deflected almost into Berisha’s path, but he can’t connect properly. As expected, a cagey, combative start from both teams.
3 min: Ben Khalfallah takes on Calver, but his shot is awry. Still, they will surely look to get at Calver often.
2 min: Sydney free kick after a poor clearance from Thomas. But Buijs lobs it gently back to the Victory keeper.
A moment’s silence for the Bourke Street victims. The national anthem – Bozanic the only one to insist on the hand-on-heart thing. Broxham carries his very young child. Jarred Gillett is today’s ref. And it’s on!
Expectations through the roof.
Prediction: 0-0, 1 red card #bigblue
What kind of game can we expect? Graham Arnold has talked about how important it is to “win the battle”, to win the fight for the second ball and to “be prepared for the physical battle”. He went on to stress that the first 20 minutes of every game is a “fight”, and it’s about being “ready for the battle”. Also, did he mention that the key is “winning the battle”?
Given that a draw would satisfy Sydney much more than Victory, I think we can assume it’s unlikely to be a free-flowing end-to-end spectacle, unless and until Sydney go behind. Muscat reckons if Victory “put every brick in place” they will win. “Our best is good enough to beat them. We know that and they know it also.” Mind games – he’s the master.
Sydney’s unbeaten run from the start of the season now stretches to 16 games, and their lead at the top of the table is out to eight points after Victory’s defeats in Wellington and Perth, so this represents perhaps the last realistic opportunity for Kevin Muscat’s side to start reeling them in.
Form favours Victory in this fixture, having lost only one of the past 10 against Sydney, and that in controversial circumstances after David Carney definitely appeared to knock on before slotting the equaliser in November’s 2-1 win. This time last year a Matt Jurman own goal was enough to give Victory the win, and of course they also won a comfortable grand final against Sydney in very recent memory. Sydney will look back more fondly on 26 January 2014, when they came away with a stunning 5-0 win (Andy Harper: “It’s a hot knife through butter – No! It’s Sebastian Ryall!”).
Four changes for Victory, with Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Jason Geria, Oliver Bozanic and Marco Rojas returning. Leigh Broxham sets a club record, making his 225th appearance tonight. Mahazi, Ingham, Austin and Georgievski drop out, with George Howard on the bench and no place for Max Beister.
Hi, thanks for joining us – hope you’ve been marking the day in whatever way you feel appropriate. It’s a huge sporting night in Melbourne, with Federer v Wawrinka in the Australian Open semi, but we’re here for the huge clash between Victory and Sydney, which has been a solid A-League tradition on 26 January for as long as … well, there was definitely one last year.
Feel free to offer constructive criticism through the usual channels.
Mike will be here shortly. In the meantime, in case you missed it earlier today, have a look at David Squires’ cartoon about tonight’s match, featuring Graham Arnold as Nick Cave, a neo-Nazi getting biffed and an alternative A-League truth.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2017/jan/26/melbourne-victory-v-sydney-fc-a-league-live