Scoreless draw notable for great saves and embarrassing misses
By Stephen Webb
Hyundai A-League Season 2014-15
November 15, 7.30 pm
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Sydney FC 0
Sydney coach Graham Arnold would have been happy with a point at half time. But by the end of the game it was Kevin Muscat’s team winding down the clock to stop Sydney scoring a likely winner.
Victory outplayed a scrappy, accident-prone Sydney in the first half but, with two changes at half time, Sydney regrouped and put Victory on the back foot.
The score-line belied an exciting, end-to-end encounter that, but for some terrific goalkeeping and staggering blunders, should have seen five goals scored.
The game started with dark clouds overhead and both teams depleted due to international commitments, Melbourne (missing Mark Milligan, Jason Geria, Kosta Barbarouses, Connor Pain, Scot Galloway and Daniel Georgieveski) more so than Sydney (missing Corey Gameiro, Terry Antonis and Marc Janko).
For Sydney, that meant a first start for Shane Smeltz, who, apart from missing a good chance in the second half, made a good argument for spending less time on the bench.
The tone of the match was set in less than a minute, with Sebastian Ryall pulling down Fahid Ben Khalfallah (rugby tackles apparently habit-forming) on the left sideline. Gui Finkler hit his free kick to Vedran Janjetovic at the far post. Janjetovic quickly released to Bernie Ibini for Sydney to counter down Sydney’s left and Ali Abbas crossing.
In the fifth minute Sasa Ognenovski slipped, giving Khalfallah a free run at goal. Mercifully for Sydney (and Ognenovski) Khalfallah declined to take the chance himself and offloaded to Besart Berisha — who scored from an offside position to his right. Berisha’s goal did not count. While Melbourne players were arguing with the assistant referee, Sydney launched another counter offensive and, on a cross from the left, Ognenovski tapped in from close range — but also offside.
In the ninth minute Ibini pounced on a loose ball and struck first time from 20 metres, just wide of the right post.
Victory played from right to left across the top of the Sydney penalty area before Dylan Murnane shot wide.
In the 13th minute Khalfallah raided into the left side of the Sydney box and from a narrow angle fired just wide of the right post.
A great ball from Leigh Broxham found Archie Thompson making a diagonal run behind Sydney’s defence; Janjetovic was quick off his line to shut Thompson down.
Sydney were looking very unsettled.
Khalfallah skilfully worked his way through three Sydney players, skinning Ryall, who fouled him again. Muscat complained and referee Peter Green gave Ryall a good talking to.
Broxham was up well to cut out a Sydney cross from the left.
Melbourne were much more comfortable and sensible on the ball, playing out of defence with ease. From the left they moved upfield, switched to the right and won a corner. Thompson pulled the ball down with his chest and demanded a good save from Janjetovic.
Broxham fouled Ryall, as if to say, “See how you like it!”
Ognenovski still seemed out of touch. But teammates kept giving him the ball, playing him back in.
Rashid Mahazi fouled Smeltz on the end of one of several long balls pumped in his direction. Nikola Petkovic’s free kick from 35 metres threatened no-one.
A long Ryall cross fell to Christopher Naumoff on the left, who miskicked.
Thompson, down the right, crossed into a delighted Cove.
Ryall, deploying different tactics against Khalfallah, cleverly stepped him but Sydney lost momentum passing backward. Sydney came again and won a corner.
After a long ball from Melbourne’s defence Hagi Gligor gave Sydney fans some tense moments, backing away from Khalfallah before getting a toe to the ball on the edge of the area.
Abbas was great down Sydney’s left, beating Mahazi and crossing to Alex Brosque, who hit a pretty good shot from close range but Nathan Coe made an equally good save. The ball fell to Ibini who sprayed a shot way wide to the left.
The Sydney captain had been very influential in recent matches but this was not to be one of Brosque’s better outings. He was kept quiet by Melbourne and would rue some missed chances.
Ibini, on the other hand, had more good flourishes than usual. That is not to say he didn’t give the ball away needlessly at times, but his speed came to the fore; he backed himself against his opponents and even got in some decent crosses.
Jesse Makarounas played through to Thompson, who broke the offside trap at the top of the box and went left with only the keeper to beat. Thompson shot inside the near post but Janjetovic got his right hand in the way.
Melbourne kept the pressure on. Makarounas headed to the right of goal on a free kick from the right of the penalty area. Khalfallah, again free in the left of the box, crossed too long. Ryall needed to be strong heading clear, beating Thompson at the left post on a cross from the right.
Milos Dimitrijevic was brilliant taking the ball from the right, running square and then heading to goal, before playing through for Brosque who, astoundingly, shot over the goal from close range.
Berisha, who like Brosque laboured in vain this game, found space in the left of the Sydney penalty area but was offside. Then Berisha beat a falling Gligor, headed toward goal but didn’t go for glory, instead laying off for Khalfallah, whose shot was saved by Janjetovic.
Makarounas beat Ryall to stop Sydney’s last advance before the halftime whistle.
Sydney began the second half with Alex Gersbach and Peter Triantis instead Naumoff and Gligor, who had found the going pretty rough.
Triantis provided midfield stability, while Gersbach added strength to Abbas attacking down the left. The impact was immediate. Adrian Leijer made an important block in front of goal on a cross from Gersbach.
Sydney soon had more chances, attacking the Victory penalty area from the right.
A Khalfallah shot was deflected for a corner and fans near me were clearly not satisfied: “Come on boys, you’re playing like children!” Sydney’s defence scrambled and Brosque cleared.
More bad luck came for Brosque, though, when the ball caught his heels as he turned to run onto a through pass from Abbas.
Ibini was fast down the right but his final pass let him down.
Abbas cut in from the left and Broxham fouled him on the edge of the penalty area. Dimitrijevic’s free kick beat Coe but bounced of the top off the crossbar.
In the 59th minute, Ibini again ran down the right and put in a perfect cross for Smeltz in front of goal. Smeltz made good contact with his head but directed the ball straight to Coe.
Ryall fouled Khalfallah for the third time and received a yellow card.
Ibini played a good ball down the right for Brosque who was fouled by Murnane, who also got a yellow.
A dangerous free kick from Abbas was punched away by Coe. The ball came back to Abbas who was fouled. His second free kick from the same area was poor.
Broxham was good stopping Smeltz in front of goal on a cross from the left and Finkler put a lovely ball over the top for Thompson but Sydney’s defence was alert to the threat and shut him down.
Ibini seemed to have a good opportunity to shoot but took too long on the ball.
A penetrating pass found Finkler in the right of Sydney’s box but Ognenovski held him off. Ognenovski then beat Finkler again, conceding a corner. Janjetovic missed Finkler’s kick, Broxham headed it to Thompson, who reacted slowly, the ball was cleared off the line, but the flag was up in any case.
Berisha fouled Brosque, Sydney took a quick free kick and crossed from the right. Dimitrijevic screwed his shot to the left.
Andrew Nabbout, on for Finkler, attacked down the right and crossed to Berisha at the near post. Berisha slid in and pushed the ball wide.
Gersbach played a great ball down the left for Abbas. Victory cleared for a Sydney throw in and made a very late substitution to chew up some stoppage time.
Broxham, Thompson (great runs), Khalfallah and Makarounas impressed for Melbourne. Janjetovic, Abbas, Ognenovski (second half) and Dimitrijevic shone for Sydney.
Despite (because of) the wasted chances both teams remain undefeated and within striking distance of leaders Perth Glory.
20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Seb Ryall (4. Pedj Bojic 74’), 3. Sasa Ognenovski, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 8. Milos Dimitrijevic, 9. Shane Smeltz, 11. Bernie Ibini, 12. Hagi Gligor (18. Peter Triantis 45’), 13. Christopher Naumoff (18. Peter Triantis 45’), 14. Alex Brosque, 22. Ali Abbas.
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski, 19. Nick Carle
Yellow cards: Ryall 61’, Triantis 81’
Red cards: Nil
1. Nathan Coe, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Gui Finkler (13. Andrew Nabbout 78’), 8. Besart Berisha, 10. Archie Thompson, 14. Fahid Ben Khalfallah (31. Keiran Dover 93’), 16. Rashid Mahazi, 18. Dylan Murnane, 21. Carl Valeri, 22. Jesse Makarounas, 23. Adrian Leijer.
Subs not used: 20. Lawrence Thomas, 26. Jordan Brown, 33. Christian Cavallo.
Yellow cards: Murnane 63’,
Red cards: Nil
Referee: Peter Green
Assistant referees: David Walsh, Lance Greenshields
Fourth official: Kris Griffiths-Jones
3. Vedran Janjetovic (Sydney FC)
2. Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Melbourne Victory)
1. Leigh Broxham (Melbourne Victory)
Report and photographs by Stephen Webb