Sydney FC a significant step closer to premiership

by Stephen Webb

Hyundai A-League Season 2016-17
Round 22
March 3, 2017, 7.50pm
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Sydney FC 1 (Bobô 50’) defeated Melbourne Victory FC 0


Eighteen shots. Seven on target on target. Two blocked.

Graham “we want history” Arnold wants a better return. Sydney FC can improve.

Never mind that Sydney has a goal difference of 34, 16 better than their closest rival.

Never mind that this win over second-placed Melbourne Victory in the “#BigBlue clean sweep” takes Sydney 11 points clear at the top with five games to go, well on course for collecting the Premiers Plate with record points for an A-League season.

Melbourne had their chances but Sydney had many more opportunities, with all those shots, 27 crosses to six and eight corners to two. Captain Alex Brosque, in particular, was very unfortunate when presented with great chances but couldn’t buy a goal.

Sydney keeper Danny Vukovic made a couple of crucial saves but his Melbourne counterpart, Lawrence Thomas, had to work twice as hard.

The first half featured constant rain, end-to-end action, Melbourne repeatedly getting caught offside, and Milos Ninkovic getting lots of close attention.

Fans around me were first angered by three dubious refereeing decisions. But that energy quickly channelled into gratitude for a Vukovic save against Jai Ingham, supplied by Marco Rojas.

Melbourne were moving the ball well but Sydney had been making more entries into their opponent’s penalty area, especially on crosses from the left.

Bobô had come close on a cross from Brandon O’Neill.

Brosque and Bobô almost combined to create a chance for Sydney and it took a timely intervention to prevent another ball getting through to Ingham at the other end.

In the 29th minute Filip Holosko had a good chance from five metres but Thomas got an arm to it.

Brosque chipped over with the goal at his mercy.

Bobô and Holosko both failed to make contact on a Zullo cross from the left.

Thomas saved a shot from Rhyan Grant and then tipped a Brosque shot over the bar.

Sydney’s goal came early in the second half, with Josh Brilliante playing through for Brosque who failed to gather under pressure from two defenders. The ball spilled right to Holosko, whose cross found Bobô arriving at the left post to give Sydney what turned out to be the winner.

James Troisi shot to Vukovic, Thomas collected a soft shot from Brosque and Besart Berisha spooned a sitter over the crossbar on a ball from Rojas.

In the 60th minute, persistence by Grant saw the ball arriving for Ninkovic who dropped a long lob onto the top of the Melbourne net.

Donachie cut out a great cross from O’Neill, who later hit a poor shot from left to right across the goal.

Grant shot to Thomas from close range and Broxham cleared a cross from Zullo.

Brosque, coming in from the left, hit the side netting and Geria, who hadn’t been having his best game, headed wide on a Melbourne free kick.

Thomas again saved a Brosque shot, point blank.

Troisi was getting frustrated and was awarded a yellow card for fouling O’Neill.

Sydney’s last chance was in stoppage time, Matt Simon shooting from the left just wide of the right post.

Sydney’s standout performance again came from Milos Ninkovic: vision, touch, influence. He has not been as ruthlessly targeted this season as he was in 2015-16, but will he make it safely through the finals?

Match stats:

Sydney FC 1 (Bobô 50’) def. Melbourne Victory 0

Crowd: 13,310

Sydney FC:
20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 4. Alex Wilkinson, 5. Jordy Buijs, 6. Joshua Brillante, 7. Michael Zullo, 9. Bobô (18. Matt Simon 84’), 10. Milos Ninkovic (17. David Carney 89’), 13. Brandon O’Neill, 14. Alex Brosque (c), 21. Filip Holosko (11. Bernie Ibini 72’), 23. Rhyan Grant.
Subs Not Used: 1. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 8. Milos Dimitrijevic.
Yellow cards: Zullo 9’, Holosko 16’.
Red cards: None.

Melbourne Victory:
20. Lawrence Thomas (gk), 2. Jason Geria, 4. Nicholas Ansell, 5. Daniel Georgievski (13. Oliver Bozanic 77’), 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Marco Rojas, 8. Besart Berisha, 10. James Troisi, 17. James Donachie, 21. Carl Valeri (c), 23. Jai Ingham (14. Fahid Ben Khalfallah 64’).
Subs Not Used: 40. Matthew Acton (gk), 11. Mitchell Austin, 16. Rashid Mahazi.
Yellow cards: Troisi 86’.
Red cards: None.

Referee: Peter Green
Assistant Referees: David Walsh, Owen Godlrick
Fourth Official: Kurt Ams

Best players:

3. Ninkovic (Sydney FC)
2. Bobô (Sydney FC)
1. Thomas (Melbourne Victory)