Stylish Reds show up Sky Blues

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

A-League Season 2014/2015 – Round 12
Saturday 26th December 2014 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 0
Lost to
Adelaide United FC 3  (Bruce Djite 67′, Pablo Sanchez 80′, Awer Mabil 90′)

Once again Sydney FC put in a wholehearted effort, creating numerous chances, especially in the first half, of their Boxing Day, Friday evening game against the stylish Adelaide United at the Sydney Football Stadium, only to come up short again, as confidence seeped away in a second- half which belonged mostly to the visitors.

Adelaide were coming off two A League losses, sandwiched either side of their 1-0 FFA Cup Final triumph over Perth Glory and needed the points to re-emerge as challengers to leaders Glory and best-placed team to catch them at this stage, Melbourne Victory.

The Adelaide side were not the fluent stylists we’d come to expect, as they failed to string their passes together and looked disjointed going forward.

But defensively they were outstanding and they had captain and goalkeeper, Socceroo squad member Eugene Galekovic, to thank for much of that, as well as seasoned campaigner, Nigel Boogaard, whose timely tackle at one stage robbed Sydney FC of what had looked a certain opening goal.

Galekovic did not make multiple saves, but he commanded his area magnificently, reading the game to perfection and collecting the ball in mid-area on many occasions, as he anticipated potential danger from the Sydney FC attackers’ runs into the box.

The veteran custodian barely put a foot wrong and his fellow defenders were very sound as well.

Their left-back, Tarek Elrich, however, who has become much more solid defensively under Adelaide coach Josep Gombau than hitherto, could arguably have blotted his copybook when bringing down marauding Sydney FC striker Janko on the edge of the area, nine minutes before the break.

With other Adelaide defenders rushing back to provide cover, the false tackle from Elrich may well have been made before they had got back in time and it was left to referee, Jarred Gillett, to rule on whether that was the case.

It was mentioned later that perhaps the tackle warranted a red card for Elrich, who conceded a yellow, instead and a free-kick, which ultimately came to nothing.

That indiscretion aside, Adelaide defended superbly and laid a strong platform for their later achievements.

Sydney FC had created enough chances to score before the break, but had clearly left their scoring boots behind, again, as Adelaide weathered the storm.

Adelaide could also have netted, it must be said, with Bruce Djite, who is playing the target man to perfection these days, screwing a shot wide of the far post, after being sent through to face Vedran Janjetovic in the 13th minute.

Sydney’s Bernie Ibini, looking a threat for much of the first-half for Sydney, might have done better after dashing onto a nice through ball in the 23rd, from Alex Brosque, only to clip his volley narrowly over the crossbar.

Djite also had another chance in the 34th, a snap-shot that flew just wide.

The Janko-Elrich clash which came in the 36th brought a decision from referee Gillett that did not go down too well with Sydney FC coach, Graham Arnold, when discussing the incident after the game.

Alex Brosque, who was back in the side after withdrawing just before the match against Wellington, some days earlier, played in an advanced role at times, as both strikers Shane Smeltz and Janko were well taken care of by Boogaard and Dylan McGowan and needed someone else to offer support from behind them, Brosque and Ibini the men best placed to do that.

Janko looked a little out of sorts late in the first-half and needed on-field treatment, for what turned out to be a strained hip, so it was no big surprise when he was hauled off after an hour, with Peter Triantis moving into the midfield and Brosque moving further forward alongside Smeltz.

Smeltz, though, had a quiet game, or at least Adelaide made him look quiet.

Out wide Adelaide attacked strongly, Craig Goodwin and James Jeggo were always prominent, running at their markers strongly, but Reds’ coach Gombau’s decision to replace Goodwin with Pablo Sanchez in the 63rd minute paid off magnificently, as the wing play of both Jeggo and the other newcomer off the bench, Pablo Sanchez, had Sydney FC in all sorts of trouble.

Central midfield schemer, Marcelo Carrusca, however, had to bow out, after putting in a good shift up to the hour mark, due to what may be a serious injury, though news on that is still pending.

Carrusca’s replacement, Amer Mabil, caused Sydney problems too and got himself on the score-sheet, as Adelaide romped home 3-0 with all of their goals coming late in the match.

It was evidently the first time this season that Gombau’s admired attacking team had scored more than twice in a match.

“In many ways it was a replica of last week’s loss,” lamented Graham Arnold.

“We played well in the first-half and then we allowed them to score goals late in the game, so we have to work out why that’s happened again.” he reflected.

Adelaide had everyone working to the game plan, as coach Gombau was happy to confirm.

He agreed that certain players had played well, such as the creative Sergio Cirio and the injured Carrusca.

“I don’t want to single anyone out, as we are very much a team and all of my players did well,” he stressed.

In fact Gombau expressed his satisfaction with the entire squad, when asked if he’d be bringing in any reinforcements at the January transfer window.

“Not at this stage, no,” he said.

“I’m very happy with all of the players we’ve got and I don’t need to change anything.

And if his football team keep playing at this tempo and with the level of confidence that they displayed here, Gombau’s approach would make perfect sense.

They took the lead in the 67th minute, after a clever ball played through over the heads of defenders by right back, Michael Marrone, for substitute Sanchez to in turn set James Jeggo free down the right.

Then, when the speedy Jeggo got to the byline, his cross, whipped in low, had Sydney defender, Seb Ryall and the alert Djite converging on the ball right in front of goal, big Sydney keeper, Janjetovic having already been beaten by Jeggo, after racing out off his line.

Djite was right on Ryall’s heels as the low cross came over and when the Sydney defender tried to hack the ball clear, it came back off Djite’s body and into the net, a clear case of a striker’s opportunism and experience paying off and certainly no fluke.

Full marks to Djite for being positive enough to believe he’d get to the ball one way or another.

As Sydney laboured to catch up, lacking the necessary confidence to do so with enough conviction, Adelaide pressed home their advantage.

In the 80th Mabil was on the end of a flowing Adelaide move and played his part by threading the ball through to the skilful Sanchez, who played Jeggo in once again.

As Sanchez moved on towards the centre of the goalmouth, Jeggo’s precision cross was at just the right height and firmness for the former to score with an on-the-run header, which propelled the ball past Janjetovic and then flew into the top left corner of the net, from about six yards out.

It was another quality goal from Gombau’s men.

Adelaide weren’t finished, either. Just as Wellington had done the match before, by scoring twice near the end, the Reds had broken the hearts of the home team’s fans, by making goal-scoring look easy.

As stoppage-time approached substitute Mabil put the icing on the Christmas cake, tapping in effortlessly, after Sanchez had unselfishly squared the ball to his team mate, having latched onto a lovely ball down the left by Isaias, that had put Sanchez one-on-one with the keeper, inside the six-yard box.

The closest Sydney came to scoring in the second period was when Ibini headed just wide in the 82nd, but morale by then was already low and this further defeat has left coach Arnold scratching his head, yet again, as his increasingly depleted ranks limit his options in every game his team turns up to play.

Arnold is braving the storm, acknowledging that this situation of losing four key players, one after the other, in consequence losing touch with the leading clubs after a bright start, is a massive challenge.

“I think for 60 minutes we were decent value and I think we had the better of the first-half.  The confidence of the boys is a little bit rattled at the moment, but we’ve got to man up and move on.

“You have to give Adelaide credit they played well.  We’ve done a lot of work off the field to create a culture at the club and now we have to move on with it on the field.  Obviously everyone knows we are down on bodies and down on players but you can’t use that as an excuse because that was the team that played so well against Melbourne Victory.  It’s no secret when you look at it the loss of Sasa Ognenovski is a big blow because of his defensive qualities and leadership.

“Someone told me two of the goals were offside but I haven’t seen them yet and I thought Janko was through one-on-one with the keeper and Tarek was the last defender, but you have to ask the referee.

“It’s a really big challenge ahead for us.  A lot of those boys out there tonight, probably eight of them played less than ten games last season. We are analysing everything and we are trying to get the players to forget about the loss and move on.”

“We just have to stay positive and move forward.”

“We’ve got young boys playing in the team and they’re doing their best,” he advised.

He said that he had no choice, but to play the younger players, with the ranks so thin.

“Rhyan Grant has come back from a serious injury and is doing well. Young (Alexander) Gersbach is also learning a lot and I have to give these players a chance.

Arnold is looking at bringing in new blood at the Asian Cup break, which coincides with the January transfer window and he knows how crucial it will be to find suitable fill-ins for the likes of Ali Abbas, Nick Carle, Sasa Ognanovski and Cory Gameiro.

For Josep Gombau, who could lose Carrusca, if his injury is as serious as many are thinking, won’t have had to worry so much about a lack of depth as he still has players like Osama Malik and Fabio Ferreira to come back in.

Arnold had a difficult trip to Brisbane coming up on Tuesday and another home game, this time against Newcastle Jets, to play before the Asian Cup break.

Losing another home game, certainly not one against the struggling Newcastle, simply cannot be conceived and after the Adelaide loss, he’ll be hoping to bring back at least a point from Brisbane too.

Match details

Crowd: 14,214

Sydney FC:  20. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 2. Seb RYALL, 6. Nikola PETKOVIC, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11. Bernie IBINI, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 16. Alex GERSBACH, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 21. Marc JANKO (18. Peter TRIANTIS 57’), 23. Rhyan GRANT.
Subs Not Used: 1. Ivan NECEVSKI, 4. Pedj BOJIC, 25. Aaron CALVER, 29. George BLACKWOOD

Yellow cards:  Janko 32 (SC)’, Gersbach (SC) 62’
Red cards: Nil

Adelaide United FC: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk)©, 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Nigel BOOGAARD, 4. Dylan MCGOWAN, 8. ISAIAS, 9. Sergio CIRIO, 10. Marcelo CARRUSCA (17. Awer MABIL 69’), 11. Bruce DJITE (14. Cameron WATSON 82’), 16. Craig GOODWIN (7. Pablo SANCHEZ 64’), 18. James JEGGO, 21. Tarek ELRICH.
Subs Not Used: 30. John HALL, 15. Ben WARLAND.

Yellow cards:  Carrusca (AU) 15’, Goodwin (AU) 25’, Boogaard (AU) 27’, Elrich (AU) 35’
Red cards: Nil

Points and Ratings

Player points:
3. Eugene Galekovic (AU)
2. Bruce Djite (AU)
1. Nigel Boogaard (AU)

Match 7/10
Pitch 7/10
Referee: Jarred Gillett 7/10