Melbourne’s stars shine in Sydney

By Stephen Webb

Hyundai A-League 2014-15 Season
Round 1
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
October 11, 2014, 7.30pm

Sydney FC 1 (Corey Gamerio 54’)
drew with
Melbourne City FC 1 (David Villa 63’)

Melbourne City’s superstar signing David Villa came off the bench in the second half to score the equaliser in a reasonably close season opener in Sydney on Saturday.

Statistics indicating equality across the board flatter Sydney; Melbourne dominated the first half and Sydney’s goal came against the run of play. Thereafter Sydney played better football. Although Villa didn’t otherwise make a significant contribution his goal was well taken and enough to ensure Melbourne City deservedly shared the points.

Melbourne were missing players through suspension (Jason Hoffman), injury (Robert Koren, Jonatan Germano, Connor Chapman and David Williams) and international duty (Stefan Mauk).

Sydney started without Shane Smeltz (injured), Ali Abbas, Marc Janko, Bernie Ibini (senior international duty), Christopher Naumoff and Hagi Gligor (AFC Under-19 Championship). Coach Graham Arnold had to draw on an injured Sasa Ognenovski and youngsters Max Burgess, Alex Gersbach and George Blackwood.

Blackwood, in the under-20 national team and described by Arnold as a “hell of a talent” and by APIA Leichhardt coach Rod Williams as “Eric Cantona in his skill and Alan Shearer in his finishing ability”, started up front with Corey Gameiro. Gameiro ran hard and was effective throughout. Blackwood might as well have been invisible.

The large crowd got to see the visitors’ forwards in action first, with Melbourne City having all the early chances.

Aaron Mooy had a free kick that sailed out harmlessly, Damien Duff, free on the right, squared to James Brown, who shot from outside the box hard onto the crossbar, and Brown played in from the left, over the defence to Mooy, who couldn’t connect with a volley in front of goal.

Mooy and Duff antagonised Sydney for the rest of the match. Mooy got involved in everything while Duff was focused on making Matthew Jurman’s life miserable.

Melbourne generally were better on the ball while Sydney, turning the ball over under pressure from Melbourne’s midfield, made some counter attacks with no real penetration until the tenth minute when Gameiro shot from wide on the left, requiring Andrew Redmayne to fall to the turf to save.

Five minutes later another Mooy free kick bounced in front of Vedran Janjetovic and then bounced off the embarrassed keeper, who had to flap the ball around the post. Janjetovic punched the corner away only to see Mate Dugandzic shoot wide across the face of goal.

Sydney had a few minutes of possession around the Melbourne penalty area, Gameiro appealed for a shirt-pull in the box, and Melbourne cleared long into Sydney’s half.

In the 20th minute an Ognenovski air swing left Dugandzic with a free run at goal and, mercifully for Ognenovski, Dugandzic squirted his shot wide of the oncoming Janjetovic and wide of the right post.

Sebastian Ryall, who Arnold thought was the best Sydney player on the pitch, ran to the top of the Melbourne penalty area, where his shot was blocked. Melbourne countered in numbers, won a corner and Dugandzic hit a cracker of a shot that called an enormous save from Janjetovic.

Terry Antonis earned a yellow card for chopping Mooy, Erik Paartalu robbed Gameiro, and a Melbourne cross from the right found Melbourne heads at the left post then the right post before Janjetovic flung himself through the air to punch the ball away.

In the 33rd minute Sydney captain Alex Brosque burst down the left flank and pulled the ball back for Nick Carle, who shot high when hitting target seemed a relatively simple matter. Carle’s yellow was for chasing back in frustration and hacking Iain Ramsay.

Gameiro played a lovely ball for Brosque down the left. Brosque fought hard to get the cross in to Blackwood and Sydney won a series of corners that came to nothing.

Ramsay bowled over Blackwood, Nikola Petkovic took the free kick from the right, Sydney won a corner, Ryall fouled Brown and Arnold spat.

Two obvious changes came after the half time break: Villa came on (for Brown) and Blackwood went off (replaced by Peter Triantis).

The coaching tactics for Melbourne now: Kick it to David! Kick it to David!

Mooy struggled well down the right sideline but his cross was too long.

In the 54th minute Brosque played to Carle who found Gameiro on the left. Gameiro shot over Redmayne and into the top right corner. Against expectations Sydney took the lead.

Until that point Melbourne had been pressing successfully. Now Villa wasn’t seeing much of the ball but Brosque and Carle were playing confidently and bringing Sydney back into the game.

In the 59th minute some sharp passing by Sydney from right to left found Brosque in Melbourne’s penalty area. Brosque pulled a fancy turn but only won a corner.

Milos Dimitrijevic, prominent in the second half, turned on the class and found the feet of Antonis in the Melbourne box. Antonis linked up with Gameiro, who was offside.

Ognenovski, recovering from an ankle operation and a horror first half, stopped Villa receiving the ball in front of goal.

Sydney’s ascendency was short-lived. In the 63rd minute Duff beat Petkovic and again pulled the ball back through the Sydney penalty area, finding Villa, who stepped past Ryall and scored. Villa made little impact after that … but what more impact was needed?

In the 65th minute Antonis struck a shot from 20 metres into Redmayne’s chest.

Gersbach replaced Jurman; better late than never. Gersbach wasn’t much more effective countering Duff but he did contribute more to Sydney’s attacks down the left, immediately taking on Ross Archibald and winning a corner.

Gameiro volleyed very wide on a Carle cross from the right after a fine ball from Triantis. Then Triantis over-hit a long lob for Gameiro.

Both sides were looking tired. Paartalu brought down Dimitrijevic.

Arnold had been thinking of replacing Gameiro with Burgess but put it off until the 88th minute. He may have wished he’d waited longer. A minute later Antonis hit a terrific shot onto the crossbar. It fell perfectly for Burgess in the left of the box but, with his first kick, Burgess pulled the ball wide.

The last attempt for Sydney was another long shot from Antonis, into the arms of Redmayne.

After the match Arnold said he was very proud of his boys, considering they had numbers down, and he would have taken the one-all result before the game.

He said in the first half Sydney looked nervous and tense but came into the game and moved the ball better in the second half. He wanted the team to play football, but it was a work in progress, he said.

Melbourne City coach John van’t Schip said Villa needed more playing rhythm and couldn’t play more than one half without risking injury.

He said Duff was still young at 35 and was running and making good decisions on the pitch.

He thought Melbourne lost too much shape and control in the second half, conceding possession to Sydney. As the match went on his team weren’t pressing as much as he wanted.

Villa had been humble and integrated well into the team and it was good for young players to see the professional example set by Koren, Duff and Villa, he said.

Melbourne City was in the process of building a club that would be the best in Australia, he said, but it was a long-term vision.

Sydney expect to have Janko and Smeltz back for next weekend’s derby against Western Sydney Wanderers.

Match Stats:

Crowd: 25,525

Referee: Peter Green
Assistants: Allyson Flynn, Ryan Gallagher
Fourth Official: Chris Young

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 2. Seb Ryall, 3. Sasa Ognenovski, 5. Matt Jurman (13. Alex Gersbach 68’), 6. Nikola Petkovic, 7. Corey Gameiro (28. Max Burgess 88’), 8. Milos Dimitrijevic, 14. Alex Brosque (c), 17. Terry Antonis, 19. Nick Carle, 29. George Blackwood (18. Peter Triantis 50’).
Subs Not Used: 1. Ivan Necevski (gk), 4. Pedj Bojic.
Yellow Cards: Antonis 25’, Carle 35’
Red Cards: None.

Melbourne City FC:
1. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 3. Robbie Wielaert, 5. Erik Paartalu, 6. Aaron Mooy, 7. Iain Ramsay, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 11. Damien Duff, 14. James Brown (9. David Villa 47’), 23. Mate Dugandzic (26. Marc Marino 72’), 24. Patrick Kisnorbo (c), 27. Ross Archibald.
Subs Not Used: 20. Tando Velaphi (gk), 18. Paulo Retre, 25. Jacob Melling.
Yellow cards: Mooy 71’
Red cards: None.

Best players
3. Sebastian Ryall (Sydney FC)
2. Aaron Mooy (Melbourne City FC)
1. Damien Duff (Melbourne City FC)

Report and photographs by Stephen Webb