Ten-man Sydney holds out Victory for heroic triumph

By Stephen Webb

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 5
7.45 pm, 9 November, Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Sydney FC 3
(Richard Garcia 3’, Sebastian Ryall 15’, Alessandro Del Piero 35’)
Melbourne Victory 2
(Archie Thompson 17’, James Troisi 25’)

Nothing short of amazing.

It wasn’t pretty — in fact sometimes it was pretty stupid — but this game was exciting throughout.

Not only did Sydney score twice before Victory got on the scoresheet, but the home team also played for 65 minutes with ten men and defended their eventual lead for 55 minutes.

Sydney came into this game second last on the ladder. The coach, players and all those fans with number 10 on their sky blue shirts needed nothing less than a win to hush those claiming Sydney’s season was already a write-off.

Victory came into the game undefeated and surely anticipated they would be flying home on equal points with Western Sydney Wanderers at the top of the table.

Sydney were wobbling from the kickoff, with Sebastian Ryall miss-kicking and letting Connor Pain escape down the left to win a corner for Melbourne.

But it was even worse judgment from Victory’s keeper Nathan Coe that let Sydney go into the lead in the third minute. Leigh Broxham could only manage to head onward a long kick from Vedran Janjetovic. The ball cleared Melbourne’s defence and Sydney’s Richard Garcia was first to react. Coe came out of his penalty area but couldn’t connect with ball as Garcia arrived, leaving Garcia with an empty goal at his mercy.

One of the first of many fouls on Alessandra Del Piero was committed by Pablo Contreras. Sydney won a corner from the free kick. The corner, from the right, was taken short and the subsequent cross was perfect for Brett Emerton at the far post. He missed a simple chance. Which started the Sydney fans around me: “How the hell did he miss that!” “My mother could have scored that … and she’s dead.” “That will cost us the match.”

Then referee Peter Green appeared to unfairly penalise Emerton. A fan speculated on the referee’s motives: “That’s because you’re shit.”

Garcia sent Emerton off on a futile chase against Mark Milligan. Then Matthew Thompson lost a race against Contreras, though winning a corner for Sydney.

Sarcasm prevailed as Sydney prepared for the corner: “Is there anybody there who can head a football?” And in fact there was. Jason Geria headed his clearance onto Ryall’s nose, sending the ball into the Victory net. Sydney had a two-goal lead!

Sydney’s celebrations were short-lived, however. While Ryall was waiting to return to the pitch after receiving treatment for his falconed face, Pain left Tiago Calvano in his wake and crossed from the left to find Archie Thompson breezing between two Sydney defenders to get one back for Melbourne.

Nick Carle won a free kick on the edge of the Victory penalty area. Del Piero took it back five metres and shot to the right post, where Coe saved, conceding a corner.

Melbourne’s equaliser came after Mark Warren manhandled Pain on a break to goal with only Janjetovic to beat: a double disaster for Sydney, with Warren receiving a red card and Melbourne getting a free kick just outside the penalty area. Janjetovic had James Troisi’s kick covered until it was deflected by Ryall. Back to Sydney’s usual comedy of defensive errors, it seemed.

Adama Traore easily dispossessed Emerton and a fan behind me was hoping the end would hurry on: “Why is the time going so slowly? It’s only 29 minutes!”

Milligan left a ball for Mitch Nichols and ran on into the Sydney penalty area, where he received the flick on and probably should have scored. Clever play, though.

Then Janjetovic and Ryall tested Sydney supporters’ nerves, desperately passing the ball between one another, unable to find safety with three Melbourne players pressing hard.

Sydney’s third — and winning — goal came thanks to Contreras leaping onto Del Piero as he was receiving a lob from the left into Melbourne’s penalty area. Del Piero took the penalty kick, striking it firmly into the bottom left corner, just beyond the reach of Coe.

Milligan fouled Del Piero, who took another tumble. “Nobody can fall over as convincingly as Del Piero!”

Janjetovic started the second half with more embarrassment, fluffing a clearance straight up while he was far from his line. “Warm up, Ivan [Necevski].”

Janjetovic made amends soon after, diving to his left to deny Traore, who had run down Melbourne’s left flank, Emerton a casual observer, expecting someone else would take up the chase.

Adrian Leijer fouled Del Piero, going to ground near the top left corner of the Melbourne penalty area. “I’m surprised he doesn’t have his Speedos on.”

Sydney, a man down and with little possession, weren’t always camped in their own half. Garcia, down the left, nearly set up a chance for Del Piero.

Pain crossed from the left corner and Thompson flicked high over the crossbar. Thompson then hit the crossbar after a rebound from an attempted clearance fell favourably for him — but he was offside. He was also denied by a Calvano spoil and, in the 68th minute, he skinned Carle and lobbed another shot high over goal.

Guilherme Finkler and Andrew Nabbout came on for Broxham and Pain as Victory coach Kevin Muscat looked for other options.

Garcia received a good ball down the left but he wasn’t quick enough to beat Geria, who had just been cautioned for bowling over Del Piero.

Predrag Bojic replaced Matt Thompson, who had worked mightily pressing Melbourne’s greater number.

Del Piero put another beautiful ball through for Garcia on the left but Garcia was swiftly closed down, then replaced by Chris Naumoff, who played like he wanted to make an impact.

Finkler put Thompson through Sydney’s defence but Janjetovic put sufficient pressure on Thompson for shot to only hit the side netting.

Geria felled Del Piero again and the crowd bayed for the second yellow.

There was tremendous applause for Del Piero as he was replaced by Joel Chianese. I was reading in I Am the Secret Footballer this week that tackling is not considered a skill in some quarters. I wonder if they would consider getting tackled a skill.

Ali Abbas followed some lead-up from Chianese with a shot over the crossbar, just to let Melbourne know they had to think about defending as much as searching for that elusive equaliser.

But that goal never came for Melbourne. As the visitors became increasingly frantic trying to create a chance, Sydney were heroic, closing fast on the ball, getting bodies in the way and scrapping as if their lives depended on it. Stoppage time was torturous but when it finally ended, with Bojic making a wonderful saving tackle on the whistle, the relief and sheer joy was evident on the Sydney players’ faces. Their post game huddle marked what a tremendous achievement it was.

Melbourne were defeated. Del Piero was presented with the beyondblue Cup.

Now, the next step.

Match stats

Crowd: 18, 784

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 2. Sebastian Ryall, 3. Mark Warren, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 7. Brett Emerton, 10. Alessandro Del Piero (16. Joel Chianese 89’), 11. Richard Garcia (27. Chris Naumoff 82’), 13. Tiago Calvano, 19. Nick Carle, 22. Ali Abbas. 29. Matthew Thompson (8. Predrag Bojic 74’).
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski (gk), 21. Yairo Yau.
Yellow cards: Nikola Petkovic 45’
Red card: Marc Warren 25’

Melbourne Victory:
1. Nathan Coe (gk), 2. Pablo Contreras, 3. Adama Traore, 5. Mark Milligan, 6. Leigh Broxham (7. Guilherme Finkler 70’), 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Connor Pain (13. Andrew Nabbout 70’), 14. James Troisi, 15. Mitch Nicholls, 23. Adrian Leijer, 25. Jason Geria.
Subs not used: 16. Rashid Mahazi, 20. Lawrence Thomas, 24. Scott Galloway.
Yellow cards: Adama Traore 34’, Pablo Contreras 35’, Leigh Broxham 45’, Jason Geria 70’


Referee: Peter Green (5/10)
Assistants: David Walsh, Scott Edeling, Kris Griffiths-Jones

BOTN player points:

2. Del Piero (Sydney FC)
1. Ryall (Sydney FC)
1. Carle (Sydney FC)
1. Milligan (Melbourne Victory)
1. Nichols (Melbourne Victory)

Pitch: 7/10

Game: 8/10

By Stephen Webb

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