Accomplished performance secures Sydney win

By Stephen Webb:

Hyundai A-League
Season 2014-15, Round 4
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
November 2, 5 pm

Sydney FC 2 (Antonis 21’, Ognenovski 25’)
defeated
Central Coast Mariners FC 0

If Central Coast Mariners had some luck — if Mitchell Duke had converted a penalty or if his shot onto the crossbar had been a bit lower — Sydney wouldn’t have come away from this match with three points.

But Mariners deserved no such luck. Until the latter stages, when Sydney relaxed or wearied some, the home team played some the best football the home crowd had seen for ages. As one fan near me enthused, it was the most complete team performance he could remember. Nearly every player stepped up. Only Bernie Ibini disappointed and Marc Janko was still waiting to “click”.

I took my seat five minutes after kick off but was told nothing had happened. It was boring. “I’m two seconds away from playing Candy Crush.”

Yes, after some good lead-up play and a cross from Sebastian Ryall, Janko just missed the target with a free bullet header. Otherwise it was boring.

Sydney must have been waiting for me, then. Alex Brosque, busy running about and tormenting the visitors’ defence, almost had a chance in front of goal but went to ground. The ball ended up in the left of Mariners’ penalty area at the feet of Corey Gameiro. “Yes! Yes! Yes! … Oh no.”

Eddy Bosnar, who’d already been told off by referee Strebre Delovski, brought down Brosque. Fans around me thought he deserved a caution. Nikola Petkovic wasted the free kick low to the right of goal.

Gameiro nearly had another chance but the ball was deflected to the left of goal. Milos Dimitrijevic took the corner, picking out a deep-lying Terry Antonis. Antonis shaped to shoot from 22 metres and, with a packed box in front of him, the prospects didn’t look good. But he struck the ball so smoothly it sailed across the penalty area, across the face of goal and beyond the diving Matthew Nash into the bottom left corner. An amazing strike saw Sydney take the lead.

Storm Roux won a free kick for Mariners on the right of Sydney’s penalty area. Sydney struggled to make it safe until Ryall denied Hutchinson on the line and Vedran Janjetovic grabbed the ball.

Bosnar pulled down Brosque on the edge of the Mariners penalty area and this time did collect that yellow card.

Petkovic’s free kick was played back to Dimitrijevic, who shot into the box. It wasn’t the strongest of shots but the ball bobbled its way to Sasa Ognenovski, who deflected it past the confused Nash. Two-nil.

In the 28th minute Dimitrijevic sashayed past two defenders from the top right corner of the Mariners penalty area and, with Nash approaching, squared to Brosque whose shot was blocked on the line by Jacob Poscoliero.

Boring?

“It’s picked up a bit.”

Ibini took the ball to the goal line and pulled it back for Ryall, who crossed to Gameiro whose header glanced wide to the left of goal.

In the 39th minute Janjetovic saved a header from Duke when Duke had time to chest the ball down and place it where he wished.

John Hutchinson, robust as ever, bundled over Ryall and lay on top of him.

Ali Abbas, who was having even more fun on the left than Ryall was on the right, turned Matthew Sim three times before crossing. Mariners conceded a corner, this time played deep to Dimitrijevic. By now Mariners were awake to this ploy and Dimitrijevic was shut down.

Brosque ran the ball from inside his own half down the right before cutting to the Mariners penalty area, where he was surrounded.

An Abbas cross was cleared to Antonis, whose shot seemed to be going wide but Nash made sure and conceded another corner.

The second half began as the first ended. Dimitrijevic played a wonderful ball down the left for Abbas, whose cross for Janko was cut out by Bosnar.

Then Sydney attacked down the right, the pull-back not quite coming off. “We’re tearing them to shreds at the moment!”

Abbas was again on fire, winning the ball, cutting in from the left and finding Ryall on the right. Ryall whipped the ball across the box and Nash fell to ground to save.

Ibini participated in a one-two with Brosque but then Ibini lost the ball. “Get him off!” Standards had been set and expectations were high.

“Why is he still on?”

“Who’s he shaggin’ or does he know where the bodies are buried?”

Hutchinson seemed to have a chance from the edge of the area but Ognenovski stole the ball off his toes.

Bosnar outmuscled Brosque, who had performed a spin turn in the box following fine interplay with Abbas.

Nick Fitzgerald made a break down the left but Ognenovski slid in to stop him.

With half an hour to go Mariners started coming back into the game. Duke, running into hectares of space thanks to a long ball from Nash, looked certain to score but only hit the crossbar. Fans around me were confident he was offside.

Janjetovic twice was required to assert himself in his area and claim the ball as the Mariners threat increased.

Sydney hadn’t finished yet, however. Dimitrijevic shone running the ball to goal from 40 metres out and Nash had to pull off a quality save to stop his shot finding the top right corner.

Roux saved off the line following a series of Sydney shots and Ibini broke down another Sydney foray. “Take him off, Arnold. Give him a rest!”

Janko headed the ball to Gameiro, who coolly beat Nash. But the flag was up. “He was only two metres offside, ref!”

A Petkovic free kick, 22 metres out, went just over the crossbar. And finally Christopher Naumoff replaced Ibini.

Another good Sydney build-up ended when Caceres fouled Naumoff. Dimitrijevic shot into the wall.

Dimitrijevic took on three Mariners and won a free kick. Brosque, hurt in an encounter with Poscoliero, was replaced by Alex Gersbach.

Following a free kick by Kim Seung Yong, Petkovic fouled Bosnar in the box and Mariners had a penalty. Janjetovic then became a hero, first saving Duke’s penalty kick and then Kim’s attempt on the rebound.

Rose had a shot from the edge of the area, much easier for Janjetovic, and, following a good run, Antonis found Gameiro in an offside position.

The last chance for Sydney came to Gameiro, who swung his shot way wide to the right of goal.

It might have been more a consequence of the tactical battle rather than the quality of the players, but the Mariners made Sydney look very good. For the visitors, Poscoliero, Caceres and Bosnar had some good moments. Both sides will be looking forward to the next round’s encounters — for very different reasons.

Match stats

Crowd: 17,761

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Seb Ryall, 3. Sasa Ognenovski, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 7. Corey Gameiro, 8. Milos Dimitrijevic, 11. Bernie Ibini (13. Christopher Naumoff 69’), 14. Alex Brosque (16. Alex Gersbach 86’), 17. Terry Antonis, 21. Marc Janko (19. Nick Carle 80’), 22. Ali Abbas.
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski, 4. Pedj Bojic.
Yellow cards: Abbas 5’, Ryall 56’.
Red cards: None.

Central Coast Mariners:
1. Matthew Nash, 2. Storm Roux, 3. Josh Rose, 4. Jacob Poscoliero, 7. John Hutchinson, 9. Mitchell Duke, 10. Anthony Caceres, 14. Malick Mane (11. Nick Fitzgerald 59’), 15. Matthew Sim (8. Nick Montgomery 80’), 18. Glen Trifiro (26. Seung Yong Kim 73’), 25. Eddy Bosnar.
Subs not used: 30. Adam Pearce (gk), 5. Zach Anderson.
Yellow Cards:  Bosnar 25’.
Red Cards: None

Referee: Strebre Delovski
Assistants: Sarah Ho, Ryan Gallagher
Fourth official: Stephen Lucas

Best players:
3. Milos Dimitrijevic (Sydney FC)
2. Terry Antonis (Sydney FC)
1. Alex Brosque (Sydney FC)

Report and photographs by Stephen Webb