Sydney struggle to quiet win

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 9

7:35pm, Friday 4th December, 2015 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 1 (Alex Brosque 57′)
Newcastle United Jets FC 0

Sydney FC, in front of a sparse crowd at Sydney Football Stadium on Friday night, finally managed to notch their second home win of the season, but once again their good football did not yield an easy victory, as they struggled to find the net more than once, despite dominating their Newcastle Jets’ visitors.

Sydney FC’s fans, notably the Cove group behind one goal, elected not to attend the game, as part of a coordinated national fan groups’ efforts to make a statement on perceived grievances the fans have with the FFA. Therefore it was a subdued affair, as far as atmosphere was concerned, though the football on show was reasonably entertaining.

When skipper, Alex Brosque, found the net for the only goal in the 57th minute he ran to where the Cove supporters are usually gathered in abundance and ready to acclaim their team’s  goalscorer.

This time, however, he ran towards vast rows of empty seats and it was only a small group of young fans who came down to the fence to share in his joy.

Newcastle were without their own skipper, Nigel Boogaard, with a few other absentees as well, making their task difficult.

They’re struggling to score as well, so it was no surprise to see them setting out a frankly defensive stall.

David Carney, a former Sydney FC hero a few seasons back, was one of their main driving forces, but the Sydney defence these days is pretty sound and he didn’t manage to trouble them too much at all.

Alex Gersbach and Rhyan Grant shone on either flank for Sydney FC, with Matt Jurman, partnered in the middle by Seb Ryall, continuing the good form that he’s demonstrated for most of the season.

With the backline sorted, it was the job of the others to manufacture some goals and that task largely fell to Slovakian marquee Filip Holosko, with Milos Ninkovic a willing contributor.

Unfortunately for Holosko, who was in the thick of things repeatedly, he couldn’t make his many chances count and while he could well point to the woodwork and some fine work by Jets’ keeper, Mark Birighitti, for bringing him undone, many of his misses were pretty bad ones.

Newcastle defended well, especially in the second-half and may have been fortunate to go to the sheds at 0-0.

Ben Kantarovski was his usual mature self at the back, in a weakened defence for the visitors, with the stopper making several big tackles and doing his best to stem the tide of Sky Blue shirts that threatened to run amok.

Holosko looked set to give the home side the lead after 16 minutes, following a flowing team build-up involving Jurman, initially, then Brosque, before ex-Jet, Andrew Hoole, cut the ball back for Holosko to steer home. But, instead, he could only strike the upright, when a goal looked certain.

Hoole was again instrumental in another big moment for the Sky Blues in the 25th, as he made a strong run down the left, getting onto a through pass down the flank, before crossing to Ninkovic at the near-post, where the team’s number 10 could not find the power to beat an alert Birighitti.

Ninkovic continued to toil tirelessly in looking for creative opportunities and with Gersbach again the supplier, he found Holosko right in front of goal with a deft pass, but the finish was again found wanting in the 29th.

Birighitti was relieved to claim an on-target header from Holosko, in the 34th minute, after Rhyan Grant had got to the byline and crossed smartly, after some good spade-work in the lead-up by Brosque, but a more powerful connection was really needed, or certainly a better-directed one, if the Newcastle custodian was to be beaten.

It doesn’t matter which part of your body stops the ball finding its way into the net, when you’re a defender, so when Birighitti dived to stop Holosko’s goal-bound shot in the last seconds before half-time, the fact that he virtually sat on the ball to save it, after taking the full force of it first, would not have worried him in the slightest.

But it would certainly have worried Holosko, who just couldn’t take a trick, as he vainly attempts to plunder goals that are becoming hard to come by at the moment.

Brosque, on the other hand, is full of confidence and not only involved in most attacks as a creator, but more and more now starting to score himself again, as he did many times in his heyday.

Before he did, though, Newcastle came out firing for the start of the second-half, the angry words of coach Scott Miller stinging their ears after what he felt had been a poor first-half from his men.

Enver Alivodic got onto a cross from the right, two minutes into the second-half, but slammed the ball over the bar, from well inside the area.

Soon after this let-off, Sydney FC found the goal that they richly deserved and it came from the skipper himself, who cleverly tucked the ball away from a tight angle after Ninkovic had accepted a pass from Milos Dimitrijevic, who’d initially won the ball in a strong tackle on half-way.

Newcastle had relied too much on Birighitti and the poor finishing by Holosko to keep a clean sheet during the opening period, but were hard working after the break and always looked likely to fight back and retrieve a point, if Sydney could not find a second goal.

They did have a late chance to do just that, from substitute, Braedyn Crowley, in the 82nd, after some indecisive Sydney FC defending, following a Newcastle corner, but the youngster lacked composure as he tried to get in a meaningful shot from close-range and Sky Bues’ keeper, Vedran Janjetovic, was able to gather quickly.

For all his profligacy, Holosko had a willing apologist in his coach, Graham Arnold.

“We got rewarded for good play and the bad luck we’ve had over the last few weeks. Tonight the first half was probably the best Sydney FC performance since I’ve been at the club. The most important thing is that Holosko keeps getting in goalscoring positions and it will come, his record stands for itself.

“I thought Holosko was excellent all night, second half he was very good. Anyone else could have probably thrown the towel in, at the end of the day for me he played excellent. The team discipline and team structure was very good and that pleased me the most. Tonight the players did what they were told to do and they performed the way they should.”

Scott Miller noted that the absence of his skipper, Boogaard, did not help the team and an injury to leading attacker, Leonardo Santiago, limited his team’s options, noting that the creative player, along with Boogaard, could be ready to play next weekend.

Miller did not mess about when declaring his team’s first-half effort was poor, but  was pleased with the way they applied to their task in the remaining 45 minutes.

Match details

Crowd:  9,155

Sydney FC:  22. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk); 23.Rhyan GRANT, 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 3.Alex GERSBACH; 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC,  7 Andrew HOOLE (24.George BLACKWOOD 71), 27.Mickael TAVARES; 10.Milos NINKOVIC (19. Jacques FATY 85),   14.Alex BROSQUE (c) (9.Shane SMELTZ 85),   21.Filip HOLOSKO
Subs not used: RGK 1. Ivan NECEVSKI, 18.Matt SIMON

Yellow Cards: Filip Holosko 90’+3; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Graham Arnold

Newcastle United Jets FC: 1. Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk); 22 Lachlan JACKSON (Braedyn CROWLEY 71), 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (c), 13 Lee KI-JE; 6.Cameron WATSON (Nick COWBURN 64), 7.Enver ALIVODIC, 8.Mateo POLJAK (c), 9.Milos TRIFUNOVIC, 28 Ryan KITTO (17.Radovan PAVICEVIC 85),  23.David CARNE
Subs not used: 20.Ben KENNEDY (rgk), 14.Mitch COOPER

Yellow Cards: Jason Hoffman 76; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Scott Miller

Referee: Shaun Evans 9/10
Assistant Referees: George Lakrindis and Scott Edeling
Fourth Official: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Points and ratings

Match 8/10
Pitch 9/10

Player points:
3. Alex Brosque (SFC)
2. Alex Gersbach (SFC)
1. Ben Kantarovski (NUJ)

By Corinthian