Sydney is sky blue

By Stephen Webb

A-League 2013-14, Round 22
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
3 March 2014, 7.45 pm

Sydney FC 3 (Jurman 59, Garcia 75, Abbas 90+3)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Ono 49)

Sydney moved into fourth place on the A-League ladder after good fortune and fine performances by goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic and central defender Sasa Ognenovski helped secure a 3-1 victory over cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers.

The enthusiasm of fans in the stands and commitment of players on the pitch made the match one of the most memorable of the season so far. Sydney winning helped too.

A claim for football “ownership” of Sydney was staked by Sydney fans at kickoff — a huge banner in the Cove indicating their intent to keep red hands off “Our Sydney”.

But the vigour and powerful voices of the Wanderers supporters often made it seem as if Western Sydney were the home team. Half way through the first half Sydney fans made a valiant but vain attempt to equal the Westerners’ volume and it wasn’t until Sydney’s second goal that chants of “Sydney, Sydney …” drowned out the visitors.

On the pitch, Sydney started with the most promise and it wasn’t until the latter stages of the first half that Wanderers began to pin the Sky Blues down. The second half was fiercely fought and the game would have gone Wanderers’ way but for a penalty save by Janjetovic and three defensive “mishaps” for the Wanderers.

Sydney had a predictable line-up, with Hagi Gligor in the holding midfielder spot. Tomi Juric was missing for Wanderers and playmaker Aaron Mooy was on the bench.

The first shot in a scrappy first half came in the 9th minute, with Terry Antonis for Sydney passing before getting scythed down by Michael Beauchamp and finding Ranko Despotovic in the Wanderers’ box. With Nikolai Topor-Stanley looming, Despotovic fired from close range into Ante Covic.

It was another nine minutes before the next successful goal attempt, this time for Wanderers. Brendon Santalab, initially shut down by Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic, turned back and fired a low shot between the defenders into the arms of Janjetovic.

Santalab earned his yellow card for cleaning up Antonis, who was threatening to surpass Alessandro Del Piero as Sydney’s most dangerous player.

Mark Bridge, having some success for Wanderers down the left, got into Sydney’s penalty area but was stopped by Ognenovski, who according to a fan behind me was “awesome and should be in the Aussie team”.

Testy battles were had between Youssouf Hersi and Ali Abbas and between Del Piero and Jerome Polenz. And then there was a nasty encounter between Matt Jurman and Hersi.

By the 28th minute Wanderers were spending more time in Sydney’s half.

But Antonis, Richard Garcia and Aaron Calver combined with excellence on the right, getting Antonis behind the Wanderers’ defence. Antonis’ cross found no-one.

Del Piero played a great ball forward for Antonis, but Antonis needed to be more aware of his surroundings. Del Piero again found Antonis in a promising position but Antonis again had his pocket picked.

In the 34th minute Hersi, now providing unpredictable worries for Sydney, hit a long-range shot that required Janjetovic to leap high to his left to tip the ball around the woodwork.

Bridge beat Calver and fired off a low shot that didn’t test Janjetovic. Del Piero hit a long switch to Garcia, who cut in from the right and shot with is left foot, also not troubling Covic. Hersi shot sharply from a tight angle on the right and Janjetovic got down to punch clear.

Wanderers were dominating with Sydney occasionally replying on the counter. Abbas, running in from the left, was very good finding Garcia on the right. Garcia’s ball into the box was high but provided a slight chance to Despotovic — except Topor-Stanley was all over him.

Things got more serious in the second half.

Covic had to come off his line to beat Despotovic to the ball but Wanderers drew first blood in the 49th minute — Shinji Ono pouncing on a free kick from Bridge, relayed by Santalab.

Three minutes later Wanderers could have had a second. Garcia, according to some, clumsily dragged down Hersi and Santalab on the edge of Sydney’s goal box. From the sitting point of fans around me, Santalab knocked over Garcia, who fell onto Hersi. Nevertheless, a penalty was awarded, taken by Bridge and saved by Janjetovic (hashtag legend).

Not that Sydney necessarily played better, but thereafter the home team was certainly spurred on. And bad luck befell the visitors.

In the 58th minute, reaching for a free kick in from the left, Covic punched the ball into the path of an onrushing Jurman. The ball rebounded into the net and scores were level.

Another great leap from Janjetovic again denied Hersi. Abbas was decked behind play. Fans wanted a send off but nothing was done.

In the 74th minute Garcia scored into an open goal after a poor touch from Beauchamp, receiving a ball out from Covic.

The game certainly wasn’t over. Physicality ramped up a few more notches. Santalab was really good getting Hersi into the penalty area. Polenz handballed in stoppage time. Abbas, who had been provoked physically and verbally, took the penalty. And made it a very satisfying 3-1.

Match stats:

Crowd: 40,285

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 4. Ranko Despotovic (70’ Alec Urosevski), 5. Matthew Jurman, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 10. Alessandro Del Piero(c) (62’ Corey Gameiro), 11. Richard Garcia, 13. Sasa Ognenovski, 17. Terry Antonis, 22. Ali Abbas, 24. Hagi Gligor, 34. Aaron Calver
Unused subs: 1. Ivan Necevski (gk), 2. Seb Ryall, 28. Matt Thompson
Yellow cards: 27’ M. Jurman, 86’ A. Abbas, 88’ A. Calver

Western Sydney Wanderers FC:
1. Ante Covic (gk), 3. Adam D’Apuzzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp (c), 6. Jerome Polenz, 8. Mateo Poljak (70’ Aaron Mooy), 11. Brendon Santalab, 17. Youssouf Hersi, 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge, 21. Shinji Ono (70’ Golgol Mebrahtu (77’ Labinot Haliti)).
Unused subs: 2. Shannon Cole, 20. Jerrad Tyson (gk).
Yellow cards: 22’ B. Santalab, 78’ A. Mooy, 87’ L. Haliti, 90+1’ N. Topor-Stanley, 90+2’ J. Polenz

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones 6/10
Assistants: Luke Brennan, Allyson Flynn, Chris Young

Pitch: 7/10

Game: 7/10

Best players:
3. Vedran Janjetovic (Sydney FC)
2. Sasa Ognenovski (Sydney FC)
1. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Western Sydney Wanderers FC)

By Stephen Webb

Image by Stephen Beddoes

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