Comfortable win for Sydney, thanks to VAR

By Stephen Webb

Hyundai A-League Finals Series 2017
Semi Final 1

April 29, 2017, 7.50 PM
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Sydney FC 3 (Brillante 21’, Buijs 37’, Holosko 45+1’) def. Perth Glory 0

Talking points before the game, apart from the likely score line (no-one was as optimistic as to predict 3-0), were ticket prices and the state of the pitch after a rugby league match the night before and another three days earlier.

By half time the only talking point was the VAR: the Video Assistant Referee who conferred two goals to Sydney, putting the home side three up at half time and leaving them comfortable for the rest of the game.

Sydney fans weren’t settled into their seats until the semi final was due to begin but the Cove was in fine voice as the stadium filled. A few dozen Glory fans gathered at the southern end and others mingled with Sydney supporters.

Perth kicked off and won a corner in the first minute but the first 20 minutes were pretty even.

Milos Ninkovic was classy from the outset, playing a lovely ball down the left sideline for Michael Zullo, who wasted his cross.

Diego Castro’s first entry into the left of the Sydney penalty area was thwarted by Rhyan Grant.

Marc Warren fouled Alex Brosque and Jordy Buijs’ free kick from the right was too long to be of use.

Grant sent Filip Holosko down the right but Holosko ran out of pitch.

Sydney were keeping the ball better but Perth were still managing to get forward. Buijs cut out a cross from the right and another cross, from Rostyn Griffiths, was too long for Castro.

A Ninkovic ball through for Bobo was also too long but Sydney won a throw in.

In the 14th minute Sydney had a corner. Buijs’ ball into the box presented Bobo with a chance but he overran it. Ninkovic was pulled over while lining up a shot but no foul was seen by referee Peter Green.

Sydney’s first goal came eight minutes later. Josh Brillante, set up 25 metres from goal by Ninkovic, launched a missile into the top left corner, leaving Liam Reddy flailing in its wake.

A minute later Bobo seemed certain to score Sydney’s second but was denied by Reddy following a cross from the right by Holosko.

Sydney could taste blood.

Brosque headed a corner close to goal and then was fouled by Lucien Goian as he broke down the right sideline.

In the 27th minute Ninkovic ran through the middle and set up Bobo for another shot saved by Reddy.

Perth’s main response was to hit long balls for Castro and Andy Keogh to chase.

Holosko had a break but showed too much to Warren.

Sydney had a slight scare when Danny Vukovic came off his line and fell but the ball landed kindly for Sydney with Buijs mopping up.

Taggart shot high, Brillante made an important clearance and Castro tripped on the chopped up turf as he attempted to enter the left side of the Sydney penalty area along the goal line.

Sydney’s tempo dropped and errors became more frequent. But in the 38th minute a goal was awarded to Buijs after the VAR overruled an offside decision against Bobo. Buijs ran into the box, playing a one-two with Brosque, shooting through Reddy and following through to finish.

Buijs ran to celebrate with teammates and fans, not noticing the assistant referee had a flag raised, judging that Bobo in an offside position had interfered with Dino Djulbic attempting to stop Buijs. The VAR, Strebre Delovski, disagreed, deeming the interference not substantial.

Josh Risdon received a yellow card for impeding Ninkovic on a break.

Sydney’s third goal also came courtesy of the VAR. Holosko, after O’Neill lobbed into the box, headed backwards in contest with Reddy and scored but was ruled offside. Replays clearly showed the goal was legitimate. But they also showed Reddy crashing his fists into Holosko’s back and, as Buijs collected the ball from the net, striking the Sydney defender in the face and ramming him against the goalpost.

Sydney fans were sure Reddy would be sent off. Perth coach Kenny Lowe must have thought so too, because he warmed up substitute goalkeeper Nicholas Feely.

But somehow Reddy survived. Only to be booed henceforth whenever he touched the ball. And jeered whenever he slipped or failed to catch cleanly.

Social media commentary at half time focused on the VAR and the playing surface.

Early in the second half Risdon nearly played Castro into the Sydney penalty area.

There were ironic cheers whenever the assistant referees flagged offside correctly. Even when a Sydney goal was denied.

Perth’s second half tactic was to send Risdon and Warren bombing forward.

In the 52nd minute Castro pulled the ball back for Keogh unmarked near the penalty spot but the striker blew his chance, firing high.

Bobo and Ninkovic both ran over a cross by Grant and a Risdon cross was blocked by Zullo, giving Perth a corner.

Djulbic and Keogh were both close to making contact with a cross from the right but that was a rare instance of Sydney’s backline losing control, even when Perth provided the most threat as Sydney slowed the game down.

Lucian Goian blocked a Grant cross and Sydney won a corner.

Bobo stopped the ball in the path of Ninkovic at the top of the Perth penalty area. It could have been a pretty chance but Ninkovic was half a step past it.

Bobo received an advantageous pass inside the box but couldn’t control, and Ninkovic slipped Grant a lovely pass but Grant’s cross didn’t do the service justice.

In the 67th minute Brosque, on a clear break, shot straight to Reddy and Risdon cleared.

Ibini, on a Grant cross, did the same, Reddy’s save rebounding off the post.

Ibini, this time fed by Ninkovic, was stopped by a sliding Goian.

A through ball from Castro found Keogh offside.

A marvellous cross from Ibini was poorly met by Bobo at the left post.

In the 76th minute another great ball by Castro was met by Adam Taggart, who could only touch it on to Vukovic.

Ibini made a pointless foul on Chris Harold and hurt himself in the process. Sydney were down to ten players with three minutes of stoppage time to run.

Vukovic did a “Reddy”, coming out of his box and missing the ball. Buijs again saved his embarrassment and clean sheet.

The result meant Sydney could host the Grand Final on May 7. Their opponents will be Melbourne Victory, who defeated Brisbane Roar 1-0 in their semi final at AAMI Park.

In the post match media conference Lowe said Perth had put together a decent run coming into the finals. They were the form team after Sydney, he said. But they were beaten by a better team on the night. “We can’t hide from that.”

Graham Arnold said Sydney’s was an outstanding performance and his side could have scored another four goals.

He said Perth were always a dangerous side but Sydney had a plan to stop Castro.

On the pitch controversy he said Sydney were technically good enough to deal with it.

On the VAR controversy he said there were two blatant mistakes; two wrong decisions were made right.

Talking points as the grand final begins? Ticket prices? The condition of the pitch after a rugby match the day before?

Match stats

Sydney FC 3 (Brillante 21’, Buijs 37’, Holosko 45+1’) def. Perth Glory 0

Crowd: 21,938

Sydney FC:
20. Danny Vukovic (gk), 4. Alex Wilkinson, 5. Jordy Buijs, 6. Joshua Brillante, 7. Michael Zullo, 9. Bobô, 10. Milos Ninkovic (17. David Carney 81’), 13. Brandon O’Neill, 14. Alex Brosque (C) (18. Matt Simon 86’), 21. Filip Holosko (11. Bernie Ibini 66’), 23. Rhyan Grant.
Subs Not Used: 1. Andrew Redmayne (gk), 8. Milos Dimitrijevic.
Yellow cards: Ibini 89’.
Red cards: None.

Perth Glory:
33. Liam Reddy (gk), 3. Marc Warren, 6. Dino Djulbic, 7. Joel Chianese (14. Chris Harold 73’), 8. Rostyn Griffiths (C), 9. Andrew Keogh, 11. Richard Garcia (15. Brandon Wilson 52’), 17. Diego Castro, 19. Joshua Risdon, 22. Adam Taggart, 26. Lucian Goian.
Subs Not Used: 13. Nicholas Feely (gk), 5. Rhys Williams, 10. Nebojsa Marinkovic.
Yellow Cards: Goian 24’, Risdon 45’, Warren 80’, Keogh 83’.
Red cards: None.

Referee: Peter Green
Assistant Referees: Nathan MacDonald and Owen Goldrick
Fourth Official: Kurt Ams
Video Assistant Referee: Strebre Delovski

Pitch: 5/10

Best players
3. Ninkovic (Sydney FC)
2. Castro (Perth Glory)
1. Buijs (Sydney FC)

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