Sydney met their match midweek

by Paul Green

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 14
7:50pm, Wednesday 3 January, 2018 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 2 (Milos Ninkovic 16′, Bobô 87′)
drew with
Newcastle United Jets FC 2 (Andrew Nabbout 10′, Joseph Champness 62′)


Finally, apart from a rare blip against Central Coast Mariners some weeks back, Sydney FC met their match, when Newcastle Jets showed up at Sydney Football Stadium on a holiday season Wednesday night, where children were admitted free.

Everyone got their money’s worth and the kids got something very worthwhile for nothing while their parents who had brought them along would have been glad that they turned up and had some cash left in their pockets.

Newcastle led twice and twice the Sky Blues fought back, entertaining their way to level-pegging both times, with some classic goals and with all-action performances coming from both participating teams.

Sydney FC, on a 23-game unbeaten run at home, had planned to keep the same eleven players on the field as those who had beaten Perth Glory 6-0 four days earlier, but with skipper Alex Brosque succumbing to a groin strain they had just the one change; David Carney coming in for the veteran Sky Blues attacker.

The Jets had seven senior players missing, including veterans Nigel Boogaard, Ben Kantarovski, Roy O’Donovan and Ronald Vargas, but there was no evidence of any real weaknesses in their line-up and certainly no lack of confidence in tackling the Champions and benchmark-setters of the current season.

It was a classic first versus second contest and the football was of a high standard and played at high intensity from the opening whistle.

Lachlan Jackson stood tall at the heart of the Newcastle defence and was responsible for several key, last-ditch tackles that preserved his team’s slender lead, each time they were in front. Fellow-defender, Nikolai Topor-Stanley was celebrating his 250th A.League appearance in this game was also outstanding.

Right at the end, with just minutes to go, Ernie Merrick’s side could hang on no longer, after some completely dominant defending and exemplary concentration for the previous 87 minutes and lost their precious 2-1 lead to a well-worked Bobo goal.

The Brazilian’s goal, his eighth in four matches, was the result of an excellent team effort by the Sky Blues who are never easily beaten these days and deprived the Jets of the chance to close the gap at the top.

It was still eight points after this game was over, but had Sydney won it would have been eleven and that’s an awesome amount of ground to make up.

Eight won’t be easy, either, but the Jets showed in this game that they are made of the right stuff and with players back from injury they can become realistic challengers to the defending title-holders, who are at least no longer invincible at home. A draw is a result that few teams have managed at Fortress Sydney FC lately.

Newcastle were in front after only ten minutes, a cross from the left smartly delivered by Daniel Georgievski was headed home powerfully by Andrew Nabbout inside the six-yard box in devastating fashion.

Wayne Brown, terrior-like on the flanks for the Jets powered another just over the bar in the 14th minute.

A superb piece of interplay featuring Bobo and Milos Ninkovic led to the latter jinking his way past a clutch of defenders inside the six-yard box, seemingly hopelessly outnumbered to deliver the equaliser in the 16th minute, with a deft finish over fully prepared Jets’ keeper Glen Moss.

Moss had no answer to the brilliance of Ninkovic’s finish, after the Serb had begun the move by spreading the ball wide to Bobo, whose return pass set the marquee man on his path to goal.

The scorer’s body swerve in all directions completely bamboozled the five or six Newcastle defenders protecting their keeper and the goal was later described by Ninkovic as ‘probably the best of my entire career’.

That goal drew massive applause and adulation from a crowd that swelled to over 18,000, following below-par attendances for much of the current campaign, the Western Sydney Wanderers’ game a rare exception.

Sydney may well have got right on top after that morale-boosting equaliser, but the Jets didn’t surrender even in the face of some high tempo quality attacking from the Sky Blues and the visitors were always a threat themselves for long periods.

In the 19th minute Bobo send a thundering volley goal-wards, but long-time Kiwi international Glen Moss was equal to it and made a wonderful reflex save to deny the Brazilian.

Young Socceroo Joe Champness and the irrepressible Nabbout both went close for the Jets before an exhilarating first-half came to a close, while Jason Hoffman had a goal ruled out for offside.

A corner from the right by John Koutroumbis was flicked on at the near post and Champness got there first in a crowded goalmouth to volley home in the 62nd and restore Newcastle’s lead.

Bobo and Ninkovic continued to pose problems for the Newcastle defence as the clock ran down, but the introduction of Matt Simon for Carney in the 66th and then young Charles Lokoli Ngoy for Brandon O’Neill in the 83rd gave Sydney some fresh legs and attacking ammunition and it was enough to tip the scales back in favour of the home side.

They pressed on relentlessly and it looked for a long time that the makeshift Newcastle defence would hold firm, but one man in form recently, Adrian Mierzejewski, who’d been less devastating than in recent weeks, provided a telling cross from the left which allowed a for-once unmarked Bobo to head home inside the goal area.

Just moments earlier Bobo had run onto another Mierzejewski pass and loomed up inside the Jets goalmouth but with Moss covering his near post Bobo was forced wide by a tenacious Lachlan Jackson with the perfect last-ditch tackle.

It followed Bobo’s two hat-tricks in his last two games and brought his tally to 14 for the season.

Sydney FC coach, Graham Arnold, had nothing but praise for his charges.

“I was very proud of the effort and character tonight. Bobô could have had another hat-trick tonight but sometimes you win 6-0 taking all chances and sometimes you don’t.

“It’s another wonderful achievement with the longest undefeated streak at home with 24 league games.

“You have a game plan and then you have quality. Ninkovic, Adrian, Brosque and Bobô, they change the game. That Ninkovic goal came out of nothing, it was wonderful.

“I’m a hard task master and again it was another good 45 minutes in the second half and we’ll address the first but I couldn’t be prouder with the effort.”

Match details

Crowd: 18,055

Sydney FC: Andrew REDMAYNE (Gk), 26.Luke WILKSHIRE, 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 7.Michael ZULLO; 6.Josh BRILLANTE, 13.Brandon O’NEILL (21.Charles LOKOLINGOY 83); 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Adrian MIERZEJEWSKI, 17.David CARNEY (18.Matt SIMON 66); 9.BOBÔ
Subs not used: 30.Thomas HEWARD-BELLE (rgk), 22.Seb RYALL, 8.Paulo RETRE

Yellow cards: Luke Wilkshire 12, Michael Zullo 75
Coach: Graham Arnold

Newcastle United Jets FC: 20.Glenn MOSS (gk); 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 17.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (12.Mario SHABOW 69); 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 10.Wayne BROWN (23.Devante CLUT 83), 7.Dimitri PETRATOS; 24.Joe CHAMPNESS (19.Kosta PETRATOS 90), 3 Jason HOFFMAN, 15.Andrew NABBOUT
Subs not used: 30.Ivan NECEVSKI (rgk), 32.Angus THURGATE

Yellow cards: Daniel Georgievski 28, Wayne Brown 71
Coach: Ernie Merrick

Points and ratings

Referee: Jarred Gillett 9/10
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields, James Tesoriero
Fourth Official: Adrian Arndt; Video Assistant Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Weather: Mild and dry

Match 9/10
Pitch 9/10

Player points
3. Milos Ninkovic (SFC)
2. Bobo (SFC)
1. Joe Champness (NUJ)