Melbourne City and Sydney FC share spoils
By Arvind Hickman:
Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 1
7.30pm, Saturday 10 October – Allianz Stadium (SFS)
Sydney FC 1 (Filip Holosko 45’+2)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Wade Dekker 16′)
SYDNEY FC and Melbourne City played out a scrappy 1-1 draw in a game littered with first round rust at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Sydney will feel they should have won the game after a dominant second half, but a draw was just about right in a patchy encounter where too many passes went astray and touches were found wanting.
Twenty-one year old Wade Dekker opened the scoring for City after dispossessing a loitering Jacques Faty in the 16th minute before playing a neat one-two with Bruno Fornaroli and slotting home.
City could have doubled their advantage after Hernan Espindola was picked out by a sumptuous diagonal Robert Koren pass, but his finish was drilled wide.
Sydney FC were struggling to get into the game and moved the ball around too sluggishly for the well organised City defence.
City could have had a penalty on the half hour mark when Robert Koren was upended by Janjetovic. Referee Ben Williams turned down the appeal because he felt Koren was looking for contact, which occurred as the ball rolled over the goal line – probably the right call.
Moments later Sydney defender Matt Jurman headed a free kick against his own crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten.
City were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal when Sydney equalised on 47 minutes. Man of the match Brandon O’Neill played an intelligent defence-splitting pass to Alex Brosque on the counter, who nipped in behind the back four and squared the ball across to Filip Holosko for a smart finish.
It was more than Sydney FC deserved heading into the break, but glimpses of quality from new boys Holosko and Milos Ninkovic offers promise for the season ahead.
The scoreboard rarely looked troubled in the second half, although a couple of Sydney FC attacks could have nicked it.
Rhyan Grant’s curled shot to the right corner forced former Aston Villa legend Thomas Sorensen into a sharp save, while the unmarked George Blackwood’s late volley should have found the target.
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold said he was impressed with the overall performance and blamed the disjointed start on new players bedding in.
“It’s new players and a new league for them and adjusting to each other. As the game went on we got better and better,” Arnold said.
“It’s a very, very promising start, I thought we played some really good stuff. The stats show we had seven shots [on target] to their one shot the whole game, a goal which was our mistake.
“When we went down 1-0, it can really hit your confidence and I thought we showed great character… to come back and play the way we did. If there was one negative, we didn’t adjust to the pitch too quickly.”
Arnold’s suggestion his charges didn’t adapt to low cut grass quickly could not be levelled at City, who began the game sharper in possession, more purposeful in attack and could have gone into the break two or three goals up.
In the second half Sydney lifted and City lost their shape, offering very little going forward.
“In the first half, we controlled the ball better, we played the ball from the back into the midfield,” City coach John van’t Schip said.
“[In the second half] it’s difficult, Sydney were stronger and they pushed more, their fullbacks went higher and we had some troubles in keeping the ball when won the ball back.”
The Dutchman’s decision to bring on Aaron Mooy in the 56th minute – clearly tired from Socceroos duty this week – added some thrust, but not the cutting edge City required.
That this young City side, featuring three A-League debutants and missing a handful of first team regulars, ran out of steam is no shame.
A draw against last year’s grand finalists is credible in a tricky first round encounter that often flattered to deceive.
City will leave the happier of the two camps, but both sides will want to shake off early season rust for greater challenges in the weeks ahead, including the Melbourne derby next week.
1. Vedran JANJETOVIC, 2. Sebastian RYALL, 19. Jacques FATY, 5. Matthew JURMAN; 23. Rhyan GRANT, 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 21. Filip HOLOSKO (24. George BLACKWOOD 62), 10. Milos NINKOVIC; 14. Alex BROSQUE (c), 9. Shane SMELTZ (18. Matthew SIMON 84)
Subs not used: 3. Alexander GERSBACH, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI, 27. Mickael TAVARES.
Red cards: nil; Yellow cards: FATY 84, GRANT 86, SIMON 90+1
Coach: Graham Arnold
1. Thomas SORENSEN, 18. Paulo RETRE, 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (c), 22. Jack CLISBY; 6. Erik PAARTALU, 16. Jason TRIFIRO (8. Aaron MOOY 57), 10. Robert KOREN; 30. Hernan ESPINDOLA (34. Stefan ZINNI 57), 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 17. Wade DEKKER (28. Steve KUZMANOVSKI 74)
Subs not used: 11. Michael ZULLO, 20. Tando VELAPHI.
Red cards: n/a; Yellow cards: TRIFIRO 41, DEKKER 68, PAARTALU 75, FORNAROLI 90+3
Coach: John van’t Schip
Points and ratings
3. Brandon O’NEILL
2. Sebastian RYALL
1. Robert KOREN
Ben Williams 8/10
Assistants: Allyson Flynn and Owen Goldrick
Fourth official: Matthew Cropper
Report by Arvind Hickman
Photographs by Stephen Webb