Sydney blow chance to top table

By Stephen Webb:

Hyundai A-League
Season 2014-15, Round 22
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
20 March 2015, 7.40 pm

Sydney FC 0
defeated by
Melbourne City FC 1 (James Brown 81’)

A colleague asked me before the game if this would be Sydney’s banana peel. I replied that a banana peel was due. Sydney’s long run undefeated had to end sometime. Why not when they had a chance to briefly go top of the table?

Slipping on a banana peel is physical comedy but there was nothing funny about this match. While Sydney’s play, particularly its defence, has in the past been comedic, fans sitting with me found this game to be incredibly boring.

And even though Sydney FC Chief Executive Tony Pignata’s post-match tweet noted that football was a funny game, he probably wasn’t talking about “funny, ha ha”. His analysis, though not mentioning the yawns, was otherwise on the money: “You don’t take your chances you keep the opposition in the game.”

Fans leaving the match thought Marc Janko’s shot onto the right post in the tenth minute was a crucial miss. If that had gone in, City would have been rattled and Sydney would have gone on to score several more.

As it was, both sides had shots onto the woodwork and flummoxing misses in front of goal. Sydney’s main problem was a failure to find sufficient creativity to penetrate City’s defence, Patrick Kisnorbo spending much time parallel to the ground or on the ground keeping the ball away from Melbourne’s goal.

Sydney should have won. As the game drew to a conclusion, those fans still awake would have grudgingly settled for a draw. City’s breakaway goal was insulting.

Sydney, as usual, came out of the blocks slowly. It must be a tactic: just cruise around until you get an idea of how the opponent wants to proceed.

The first event to drag fans’ eyes away from the new, huge, glaring, richly-coloured, high-definition screens at each end of the ground (but back again for the replays) was Janko’s first miss. In his current run of form, Janko missing a goal came as something of a shock. Milos Dimitrijevic used some fine skills to get the ball to Alex Brosque, who in turn made a lovely pass into City’s penalty area for Janko. Janko set himself up well, beat Tando Velaphi and struck the post.

Jack Clisby cut out a Dimitrijevic pass down the right for Christopher Naumoff, Kisnorbo cut out a cross from the left on its way to Janko, a cross from Naumoff was also cleared, and Kisnorbo cut out a Brosque cross to Janko.

Aaron Mooy hit a long, high ball from the left that found the head of Jonatan Germano in the right of the Sydney penalty area. It was the wrong angle for Germano to make effective contact.

A quick free kick by Naumoff found Brosque in plenty of space in the right of City’s penalty area but Brosque wasted his cross.

A neat ball from Brosque finally found Janko, who made a good turn but shot into the side netting. He was flagged offside in any case.

Matt Jurman played a good ball down the line for Naumoff, who hit a rubbish cross.

Dimitrijevic gave Naumoff another chance, playing him into City’s penalty area, where Kisnorbo cleaned him up.

Mate Dugandzic got down the left for City but was caught offside. Bernie Ibini suffered same fate for Sydney. Paulo Retre’s 29th minute yellow card was awarded for focusing too much of his energy on Ibini’s back. Dimitrijevic’s free kick was dropping to the bottom left corner until saved by Velaphi.

Dimitrijevic then set up Naumoff, outside the top right of City’s box, for a failed attempt at curling a shot inside the left post. A long ball from Dimitrijevic was looking useful for Naumoff until Velaphi came out to stop him.

Melbourne City were looking a bit lost, with Sydney quickly shutting them down whenever in Sydney’s half. Until … “Here we go …” Dugandzic cut in from the left and shot, Mooy, shooting from the right, was blocked and Sydney somehow cleared.

Ibini, having switched wings with Naumoff, was making some good runs down the right but was not well served. Apart from dead balls, Mooy was having a quiet game. And then was beaten by Ibini in the bottom left corner. Ibini offloaded the ball and took off down the touchline. But Dimitrijevic was reluctant to pump the long ball for him, even though Ibini had run 60 metres and clearly had the lead over Clisby.

In the 41st minute Janko thought he deserved a penalty, going down under pressure from Kisnorbo, but Sydney only won a corner.

Sebastian Ryall made a diving block to deny a Mooy free kick from the right and an attempt by Robert Koren, in front of goal, was touched by Vedran Janjetovic onto the crossbar and over.

Sydney were far from fired up at the beginning of the second half and in the 49th minute Germano moved well into Sydney’s box and pulled back for Dugandzic, whose shot was woefully high. It was an easy chance for City to go one up.

A Mooy free kick from the right sideline was headed clear for a City corner from the left.

A ball over the top had Sydney heading for City’s goal but Kew Jaliens, perhaps expecting Velaphi to come for it, headed the ball away, conceding a corner for Sydney.

There was lots of ball-popping-into-the-air-anxiety but no serious threat from Sydney.

Dimitrijevic cleared away a cross from Mooy on the left, giving Mooy another corner to take from the right.

Brosque, down the left, crossed for Ibini, who took out Dugandzic attempting a soft overhead kick. The game was called back for a late foul on Brosque, the free kick punched away by Velaphi.

Kisnorbo made two more big clearances.

Mooy crossed from the right of Sydney’s penalty area; Sydney made a hash of clearing but somehow survived.

Ibini got into the left of city’s penalty area and Velaphi deflected his shot onto the post; then Alex Gersbach played to Ibini in the box and Ibini let it run past him. “Why do you persist with him?” a guy in front of me yelled down to coach Graham Arnold.

Ibini made some amends with a powerful run from inside Sydney’s half. He found Janko, who was fouled. Dimitrijevic’s free kick went straight to Velaphi.

Sydney passed with no understanding and gave away possession. James Brown got into the Sydney box and crossed to Janjetovic. A fan behind me claimed Sydney were capable of parthenogenesis or some other kind of asexual reproduction.

Ibini made another strong run down the left but his cross troubled no-one.

In the 72nd minute Gersbach was found with a beautiful ball in behind City’s defence. He pulled the ball back for Shane Smeltz, who missed a sitter. Another great ball behind the Melbourne defence found Ibini, who hit a lovely cross for Janko. Normally there would have been a chance for Sydney but Kisnorbo threw himself at the ball and cleared.

In the 80th minute Mooy, on the left, played a long through ball down the middle, catching Sydney’s backline flat-footed and sending Brown goal-bound. Brown rounded Janjetovic and somehow Sydney were a goal down. It was so shocking it almost spurred Sydney into action.

Substitute Robert Stambolziev hit a good cross from the left but Kisnorbo beat Smeltz with a fantastic clearing header.

Mooy, in the right of Sydney’s penalty area, played to Massimo Murdocca, whose shot was deflected just wide of the left post.

As City were content to waste time, Sydney played with deplorable desperation. There were several calls around me from people wanting their money back.

Jurman smacked a long range shot high over the crossbar and Arnold, expressing every fan’s feelings, raised his arms in exasperation.

If this was Sydney’s banana peel, there is a long slide ahead, consisting mainly of away games against other finals contenders.

Match stats

Crowd: 11,638

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Sebastian Ryall, 5. Matthew Jurman, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 16. Alexander Gersbach, 27. Mickael Tavares (24. Robert Stambolziev 84′), 8. Milos Dimitrijevic, 11. Bernie Ibini, 14, Alex Brosque, 13. Christopher Naumoff (9. Shane Smeltz 61′), 21. Marc Janko
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski, 23. Ryan Grant, 26. Jacques Faty
Yellow cards: Janko (82′)

Melbourne City FC:
20. Tando Velaphi, 18. Paulo Retre (28. Nicholas Symeoy 75′), 24. Patrick Kisnorbo, 27. Kew Jaliens, 22. Jack Clisby, 13. Jonatan Germano (8. Massimo Murdocca 73′), 6. Aaron Mooy, 5. Erik Paartalu, 10. Robert Koren, 23. Mate Dugandzic (7. Iain Ramsay 71), 14. James Brown
Subs not used: 1. Andrew Redmayne, 34. Stefan Zinna
Yellow cards: Retre (28′); Kew Jaliens (34′), Clisby (60), Velaphi (87′)

Referee: Chris Beath
Assistants: David Walsh and James Tesoriero
Fourth official: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Game: 5/10

Best players:
3. Patrick Kisnorbo (Melbourne City FC)
2. Milos Dimitrijevic (Sydney FC)
1. Marc Janko (Sydney FC)

Report and photographs by Stephen Webb