Intense battle for youth at Leichhardt
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Foxtel National Youth League – Version 2 – Season 1 – 2015/20106
Round 10 – Conference B
5pm, Sunday 16th January 2016 – Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Sydney FC 3 (Emmanuel Gonzales 18, Bai Antonio 40, 86)
FFA Centre of Excellence 2 (Charlie Devereux 30′, Marc Tokich 78′)
This was one of the more interesting National Youth League matches staged at Lambert Park this season.
Far from being a formality, with the one team placed last travelling to meet the other, who have been competition leaders for most of the season, it became intense once it emerged that the FFA side, coached by Tony Vidmar, was out to prove that they were no easy-beats in this League and that the table may indeed lie.
The result, which ensured that the Sky Blues would finish first and qualify for the Final against the Southern group winners, Adelaide United, was not certain until the very end, as Sydney FC hung on to win 3-2, having recovered from 2-2 a matter of twelve minutes from full-time.
The predominantly younger players in the Canberra-based side showed no fear and while their game was far from mistake-free, they defended well and showed imagination going forward, their midfield combative in the face of some very experienced Sydney FC campaigners, who could not wrest complete control over their opponents at any stage and needed to maintain a strong work ethic for the entire 90 minutes to claim the points.
After Newcastle Jets had won the previous day, the Sky Blues knew that they needed at least a draw to finish on top, on goal difference; but the full three points would ensure that they completed the season two points clear at the top.
One or two of the senior players who’d helped the Sky Blues overcome Newcastle Jets at their last outing were absent here, call-ups to the A League side making key defender, Aaron Calver, and man-of-the-moment, Ali Abbas, unavailable.
Furthermore there was no sign of Robert Stambolziev, Chris Naumoff, or Alex Mullen either, but with Yianni Spyrakis leading from midfield, alongside the busy Daniel Araujo, Jacob Tratt marshalling the defence and Max Burgess pushing hard up front, the home side still had plenty of ammunition.
Burgess was instrumental in an early opportunity for Emmanuel Gonzales, after the former had got away down the right and cut the ball back to the dangerous Gonzales, but the FFA defence managed to scramble the 13th minute attempt to safety.
Daniel Aruajo, who continues to work tirelessly, picked up an almost inevitable yellow card early on from Tasmanian referee, James Hortle, with his high tackle-rate, but shrugged that admonishment aside to continue to carve out chances for his team, probing one minute and darting back to cover the next.
In the 18th he won the ball from unfortunate FFA midfielder, Joshua Hope, on the left and played the ball through for Bai Antonio to slip a pass across for Emmanuel Gonzales to tap in nicely, for the opening goal of the game.
FFA were not fazed by this setback and despite giving the ball away cheaply a number of times, set about their task diligently, drawing level in the 30th from a free-kick, given away by Spyrakis just outside the penalty-area.
The confident Charlie Devereux swept the ball over the defensive wall and into the roof of the net, past a surprised Anthony Bouzanis in the Sydney FC goal.
Cristian Gonzales saw a free-kick in the 37th come back off the FFA crossbar, before Araujo did more good work from the left and then delivering perfectly to the near-post for Antonio to beat the keeper from a tight angle in the 40th minute and restore the home team’s lead.
FFA thought they might have drawn level again in the 44th, after a shot from Nicholas Panetta was only parried by Bouzanis and the ball fell loose.
As the FFA boys looked to pounce greedily on the rebound, the assistant’s flag was seen to be raised for offside, disappointing Tony Vidmar’s boys.
The visitors remained competitive, although at times still error-prone, but fashioned a good chance in the 50th, captain Joe Caletti
sending Devereux on to blast a volley goalwards, that Bouzanis had to dive full-length to save.
Good chances had fallen twice before that to Burgess, who was out of touch in front of goal on this occasion and the FFA boys had also gone close again through Kosta Petratos, just two minutes after the restart.
That was far from the end of the matter, however, with Peter Kekeris forcing a big save from Bouzanis in the 63rd and substitute, Aaron Reardon, scuffing a good chance inside the six-yard box in the 66th after a well-directed corner from Kekeris.
In the 78th the FFA team made good their threat, equalising through substitute, Marc Tokich, who’d come on only five minutes earlier.
A good build-up of play led to the newcomer finding the top right corner of the net from12 yards out in what had to be seen as a much-deserved goal by the travelling team.
That was probably the wake-up call the Sydney side needed and they got going again quickly enough to find the winner.
Araujo and Spyrakis were involved once more, the latter spraying a pass wide to Antonio out on the right and, from a fair distance, the scorer of his team’s second goal added the third to the team’s tally as well.
It could have possibly even finished 4-1 when Antonio set up Cristian Gonzales for a late effort that found the side-netting, when the goal looked a more inviting target.
Good work from both sides here and when Sydney FC meets Adelaide United in the Final on Saturday at Central Coast Stadium at 4pm, they’ll certainly need to be careful.
It remains to be seen how many senior players will be available for that match and much will depend on who Graham Arnold decides to take with him to Melbourne for the A League clash against City on Australia Day.
The brief season in the Northern group has concluded and the players who’ll form the NSW NPL2 squad will await news of their involvement over the winter months, as the new entry into NSW football’s second-tier competition sorts itself out.
Crowd: 150 approx.
Sydney FC: Sydney FC – 1 Anthony BOUZANIS; 2 George TIMOTHEOU, 15 Jacob TRATT, 11 Brendan CURTIS, 14 Cristian GONZALES, 17 Christopher ZUVELA (19 Aaron AVERY 68); 8 Max BURGESS (3 Patrick FLOTTMANN 87), 7 Daniel ARAUJO, 5 Yianni SPYRAKIS (c), 9 Bai ANTONIOU; 18 Emmanuel GONZALES (12 Charles LOKOLI NGOY 68)
Sub Not Used: 20 Nicholas SORRAS (GK)
Yellow cards: Daniel Araujo 21; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Robert Stanton
FFA Centre of Excellence: 1 Duro DRAGICEVIC (gk); 2 Malcolm WARD, 16 Danny KIM (26 Aaron REARDON 49), 4 Kye ROWLES, 24 Jackson BANDIERA; 23 Kosta PETRATOS (22 Cameron JOICE 55), 15 Joshua HOPE, 6 Joe CALETTI, 17 Nicholas PANETTA; 19 Charlie DEVEREUX, 11 Peter KEKERIS (Mark TOKICH 73)
Sub not used: 12 Brandon OSIPOV(rgk)
Yellow cards: Danny Kim 45; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Tony Vidmar
Referee James Hortle
Assistants: Adam Powers and Adam Vainauskas; Fourth Official: Samuel Grasso
Ratings and points
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)
Players noted: Daniel Araujo (SFC), Yianni Spyrakis (SFC), Anthony Bouzanis (SFC), Charlie Devereux (FFA), Jackson Bandiera (FFA), Joshua Hope (FFA)
Photos courtesy of Jaime Castaneda