Abbas nets as Sydney FC cruise over Jets
Hyundai A-League – Round 14 – ANZ Stadium
Sydney FC 2 (Holosko 15’, Abbas 80’)
Newcastle Jets FC 0
By Arvind Hickman
Sydney FC winger Ali Abbas has silenced his doubters in emphatic fashion by scoring the decisive goal in a 2-0 win over a poor Newcastle Jets at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The Iraq international scored deep in the second half – his first A-League appearance since a serious knee injury sidelined him for 14 months.
Abbas, on as a second half substitute, added to Fillip Holosko’s well-taken first half strike. The win propels Sydney FC to within three points of bitter rivals Western Sydney Wanderers ahead of their crunch Sydney derby at Pirtek Stadium next week.
Abbas’ goal was courtesy of sleek interplay between the winger and Matt Simon on the left side of the penalty box. The 29-year-old passed to Simon and continued his run into the area. Simon then picked Abbas out with a brilliant backheel. Showing no signs of rust, the Iraqi calmly finished to settle a game the home side had controlled from start to finish.
“I was so scared and excited at the same time to cross that line,” Abbas said about the goal. “As soon as I passed the ball I was thinking just please pass the ball back because I was in the box and got one-on-one with the keeper.
“Everything came my way today and hopefully next week will be more comfortable.”
Next week’s derby has extra spice for Abbas as his injury occurred in the same fixture last season and he has endured abuse from Wanderers fans ever since.
Abbas explained that he used the taunts as extra motivation to come back from the ACL and MCL ruptures that could easily have ended his career.
“People said ‘you will never come back, never be the same as Ali before’. That is my motivation, people who doubt me and try to put me down,” he said.
The Abbas fairytale return will rightly steal the headlines, but even without the security of his goal Sydney FC were comfortably the better side in a game where the visitors rarely threatened.
Playing with a 4-3-3 formation, the Jets were outmuscled by Sydney’s four-man midfield and often lacked width, which Sydney exploited time and time again. Perhaps more worrying was the lacklustre movement of Jets players when in possession, often making it too easy for the well-organised Sky Blues to win back and control the ball.
Holosko’s third goal in a fortnight arrived in the 15th minute when man-of-the-match Milos Ninkovic chipped over a clever ball that the striker latched onto after winning a foot race with Nick Cowburn. The Slovakian’s sharp finish and Ninkovic’s excellent game will give Sydney FC supporters hope their patchy early season form is well and truly behind them.
Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold was delighted for Abbas to mark his return with a goal.
“I don’t think it could have been scripted any better. It’s a day for Ali Abbas, let the headlines be about him. I have to be honest and I said to (Sydney FC CEO) Tony Pignata when we were doing the salary cap at the start of the season I didn’t think he’d come back and would struggle with the injury he had,” Arnold said, pointing out that Abbas has hardly taken a day off during the rehabilitation process.
Arnold also paid homage to Sydney FC physio Andrew Clarke, who was instrumental in his recovery.
“I was happy with the performance, it’s a good lead in for the Wanderers next week,” Arnold added.
The Newcastle Jets have now failed to score in the past six games, equalling the A-League record. That’s not to say they created nothing. Milos Trifunovic’s headed effort from a second half corner was only whiskers wide, while a scintillating Mitch Cooper run through the spine of the Sky Blues deserved a better finish.
Jets coach Scott Miller said his charges lacked a cutting edge in what has been a challenging season for the club.
“I dare not use the word ‘positives’ because my expectation and the coaching staff’s expectation is that we need a lot more,” he said.
“It’s not about changing tactics or systems, it’s about improving the personnel and the individual. It’s about coming up against quality opposition with top players and taking the chances.”
Sydney FC: Janjetovic (gk), Ryall (c), Faty, Jurman, Grant, Tavares, Dimitrijevic, Holosko (Abbas 71’), Ninkovic, Naumoff (Stambolziev 67’), Blackwood (Simon 64’)
Coach: Graham Arnold
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti (gk), Hoffman (Jackson 87’), Boogaard (c), Mullen, Cowburn, Poljak, Kantarovski (Watson 81’), Carney, Kitto (Cooper 46’), Alivodic, Trifunovic
Coach: Scott Miller
Yellow cards: Carney 64’
Referee: Jonathan Barreiro. Assistant referees: Allyson Flynn, Lance Greenshield.
Referee: 8/10 – Even Arnie had praise for the officials’ performance.
Pitch: 6.5/10 – A bouncy deck didn’t help the game, which was shifted from the Allianz Stadium due to re-turfing.
3 – Ninkovic (SFC) – One of his more accomplished performances in a Sky Blues shirt. Set up a goal and was involved in a lot of good work across the pitch.
2 – Tavares (SFC) – Outstanding in the heart of Sydney’s midfield keeping play ticking over and making some crucial interceptions in defence. Rarely set a foot wrong.
1 – Abbas (SFC) – Only had a late cameo role, but started and finished move of the match and gets kudos for just making it back on the pitch. An inspiration to anyone who has suffered a serious knee knack.