Sydney wins ugly to stay near top of ladder

By Stephen Webb

 A-League Season 2013-14, Round 10
Sunday, 15 December 2013, 5 pm
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

 Sydney FC 2 (Alessandro Del Piero 43’, Ranko Despotovic 45+1’)
Melbourne Heart FC 1 (Michael Mifsud 72’)

It was overcast. The pitch was damaged. And, despite some jubilant high fives in the crowd when Sydney went two ahead near half time, fans went home with a bitter taste in their mouths. The 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart was anything but convincing.

There was some bad luck for Heart — and poor finishing — and reliable goalkeeping from Sydney’s Vedran Janjetovic, but Melbourne Heart’s second half performance surely deserved a point if not three.

Again — and even though he seriously stuffed up a penalty attempt — Harry Kewell’s 57th minute entry lifted the visitors and sent Sydney grovelling. All Kewell had to do was stomp around looking angry — and deliver perfectly weighted passes — and Heart created enough chances to defeat anyone. But, as coach John Aloisi ruefully noted, a team cannot afford to create so many chances and not take them.

For the first five minutes Sydney played attractive possession football. There were some nice touches.

Yet the best early chance fell to Heart — Andrea Migliorini shooting gently to Janjetovic after Michael Mifsud anticipated well and put pressure on Matthew Thompson, helping win the ball for Heart.

Nicholas Kalmar fouled Joel Chianese 30 metres from goal and Ali Abbas volleyed high on Alessandra Del Piero’s free kick.

Sebastian Ryall let a free kick by Patrick Kisnorbo land in the Sydney penalty area, almost giving Mifsud a chance.

For Sydney, Richard Garcia pushed the ball wide of the Heart goal. Ranko Despotovic, down the left, took on two defenders and unleashed a hefty blast off target.

Del Piero sent Predrag Bojic away down the right and Bojic, tackled by Migliorini, won the ball back from Kalmar.

Often four Sydney players were square across the front — static. And after 27 minutes fans around me wondered if striker Despotovic had even touched the ball. I’m sure he did. Once at least.

Garcia defended well against Mifsud, having switched to Heart’s right. Then Jason Hoffman earned his yellow card for pulling Garcia down as he broke down Sydney’s left.

Consensus was that Thompson was having a bit of a horror. A Del Piero free kick from 25 metres just missed the top left corner of goal. Sydney passed the ball around the back. No options. Fan comment: “Do any of you forwards know how to move?”

Ryall gave the ball away to David Williams, who fluffed whatever he was attempting to do, toe-poking the ball towards Janjetovic.

Just as I was writing how dire this half had been, in the 43rd minute Del Piero slipped between two Heart midfielders, leaving them to collide with one another, and skipped on into Heart’s penalty area, rounding two defenders and scoring between the legs of Kisnorbo when he stopped backing off. Somehow — Del Piero how — Sydney were leading.

Then in time added on Abbas shot into the back of Chianese, but Sydney benefitted from the rebound, with Despotovic turning sharply around his marker to shoot and score off the foot of Andrew Redmayne inside the right post.

Half time saw the withdrawal of Del Piero, Thompson and Iain Ramsay and the introduction of Yairo Yau, Brett Emerton and Mate Dugandzic.

Sydney started with promise to continue how they ended the first half. A great tackle by Nick Carle and a one-two with Garcia set the home side on a foray into the Heart box.

But then … Migliorini shot from 20 metres to Janjetovic and Williams shot high over the crossbar from the left. And in the 56th minute Kewell replaced Migliorini.

Williams messed receiving a pass, giving Sydney a throw (“If I write what a bad game he’s having he’s bound to score.”)

Then a Heart free kick into Chianese won the visitors a penalty. The crowd was unhappy after a similar claim for Sydney was denied in the first half. Kewell took the kick, sent Janjetovic the wrong way … but kicked the ball into the ground and sent it far beyond the right post.

Chianese might have been understanding some of Kewell’s grief when Abbas crossed from the left and Chianese missed a hurried chance right in front of goal.

Things were certainly heating up: Mifsud’s yellow was for charging Despotovic. But a few minutes later he received more than compensation thanks to a lob from Dugandzic on a pass from Kewell, a quick pair of heels and statuesque defence. Mifsud scampered into the penalty area with only Janjetovic to beat and then an open goal. Melbourne had a goal back and momentum in their favour.

It wasn’t all joy for Mifsud. Soon he missed a sitter when the ball fell to him during a scramble in the Sydney penalty area. But then he made Carle look silly. On the end of a cross from Dugandzic a shot was smothered by Janjetovic. Dugandzic was through on goal after another neat ball to Mifsud and two Heart shots were blocked.

With 12 minutes to go Sydney were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

In the 80th minute Janjetovic made another diving save to stop a shot from the top left of the penalty area. Williams shot from distance as Heart continued to receive the ball between Sydney’s defensive lines.

Terry McFlynn, on for Despotovic, put a good ball down the left for Garcia, who put over a wonderful cross to the near post.

The action returned to the Sydney goal with Janjetovic making a great save on a close-range shot from Golgol Mebrahtu.

McFlynn made a strong run into the Heart penalty area but his shot was soft to Redmayne at the left post.

Sydney wound the clock down. It wasn’t pretty and many of their own fans were disappointed … but Sydney held out for another win. While Heart added another non-win to a growing tally.

Match stats

Crowd: 16,008

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 2. Sebastian Ryall, 4. Ranko Despotovic (15. Terry McFlynn 83’), 6. Nikola Petkovic, 8. Predrag Bojic, 10. Alessandro Del Piero (c) (21. Yairo Yau 46’), 11. Richard Garcia, 16. Joel Chianese, 19. Nick Carle, 22. Ali Abbas, 28. Matthew Thompson (7. Brett Emerton 46’)
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski (gk), 5. Matthew Jurman
Yellow cards: Sebastian Ryall 45+2’,

Melbourne Heart FC:
1. Andrew Redmayne (Gk), 3. Robbie Wielaert (C), 7. Iain Ramsay (23. Mate Dugandzic 46’), 8. Massimo Murdocca, 11.Michael Mifsud, 15. David Williams, 16. Aziz Behich, 17. Jason Hoffman, 22. Nick Kalmar, 24. Patrick Kisnorbo (14. Golgol Mebrahtu 85’), 25. Andrea Migliorini (10. Harry Kewell 57’)
Subs not used 20. Tando Velaphi (gk), 6. Patrick Gerhardt
Yellow cards: Jason Hoffman 30’, Andrea Migliorini 32’, Massimo Murdocca 53’, Michael Mifsud 70’

Referee: Chris Beath 7/10
Assistants: Sarah Ho, Leigh Pigram, Strebre Delovski

Pitch: 5/10

Game: 5/10

Player ratings
3. Vedran Janjetovic (Sydney FC)
2. Ali Abbas (Sydney FC)
1. Nikola Petkovic (Sydney FC)

By Stephen Webb