Record crowd fails to lift Sydney

By Stephen Webb

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 3
7.45 pm, 26 October, Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Sydney FC 0
defeated by
Western Sydney Wanderers 2
(La Rocca 12’, Ono 26’)


A record crowd and a need to prove themselves wasn’t sufficient to motivate Sydney FC to match Western Sydney Wanderers in the season’s first Sydney “derby”.

The match seemed even occasionally but by midway through the first half Wanderers had the game under control. A Wanderers fan on the train going home said he thought things might have changed if a Nikola Petkovic free kick had gone in instead of crashing off the crossbar. But I doubt it.

I came to the game expecting Sydney to lose 0-3. That was what the form from the first two rounds indicated. They would have lost by a three-goal margin if Wanderers had bothered in the second half.

Or was it that the absence of Youssouf Hersi in the second half made it seem like Wanderers weren’t bothering? If only Shinji Ono had to make an early exit; then Sydney might have stood a chance, even without Alessandro Del Piero.

Ono provided the cross that led to Wanderers’ first goal; a free kick into the box for Iacopo La Rocca to power over Sebastian Ryall and head inside the right post.

And it was Ono’s individual talent that made the second: popping the ball over Ryall and Tiago Calvano with his left foot, spinning round as he headed the ball on, catching it on his right knee after one bounce and volleying home as he fell to the ground — Sydney players too bedazzled to react.

Later, in the second half Ono took pity. He looked through on goal with only the keeper to beat but pulled up instead of shooting as Petkovic caught up with him.

Maybe he simply couldn’t believe he had such a good opportunity to score. Maybe the ball wouldn’t sit nicely for him. Maybe he thought if he did score Sydney would then have the ball at half way so, “Let’s keep them down this end.” Or maybe he was just too tired to kick the ball. In any case, he was replaced soon after.

Without Del Piero, Sydney started with Nick Carle playing in behind the strikers. He seemed no less lost there than where he began this season, playing in front of defence.

In the early stages, even after La Rocca’s goal, Sydney seemed competitive. The leaky defence was still in evidence, however. In the 15th minute Hersi was offside putting the ball into the Sydney net; but the ease with which Tomi Juric played him behind the Sydney fullbacks was ominous.

Mitchell Mallia had a good low shot deflected off target but Sydney were not otherwise threatening Wanderers in the final third.

In the 24th minute Wanderers had two more chances to score from a well-planned but poorly executed free kick. Then Ono scored his audacious goal, Vedran Janjetovic diving but not quite protecting his right post.

In the 32nd minute Petkovic hit the crossbar. Ono also looked good in defence, clearing the ball. Rhyan Grant was hurt and replaced by Matt Thompson.

Sydney’s tactics seemed to be to give Carle the ball and hope for a miracle. Mallia put a shot over the crossbar but Sydney didn’t look like scoring from open play, already beaten by half time.

Brendon Santalab replaced Hersi for the second half and got in a few good crosses from the right.

But it was Sydney’s substitute Yairo Yau (on for Mallia) who had the first chance after half time.

Someone behind me said, “Nicky Carle: goes to the Middle East and comes back crap.” But later another fan: “Nicky Carle is the only one fucking having a go.”

Petkovic hit another free kick, this time over the crossbar, and Marc Warren made a good recovery after a terrible lapse.

Sydney fans around me thought Juric was lucky only to get a yellow card after going in with studs up against Janjetovic.

Sydney were beginning to look farcical. Joel Chianese was having a stinker. Jerome Polenz stripped Carle at halfway and ran on to win a corner, well taken by Janjetovic. Janjetovic then dived to spoil a cross from Santalab.

Mateo Poljak missed a good chance after Petkovic fell and Wanderers crossed from the right and Warren made a good effort down the left to win a corner for Sydney.

Polenz again lost Carle with a spin on the ball. Carle fouled him and earned a yellow card.

“Look at that shit!” moaned another disappointed Sydney fan. “My grandmother can do better than that!”

Yes, look at it.

Richard Garcia had one fine touch on a long ball into the forward line. Apart from that his passes kept missing his teammates. And he would look up in despair as if to say, “Why didn’t you know I was going to kick it there?”

Sydney pretty much gave up on the passing game. Some players would look up to pass and think, “No, he’ll just lose it; I might as well just boot it.” Others would try a few short passes back and forth and then realise they had no ideas so went with “I might as well just boot it.”

A day earlier commentator Mike Cockerill said Brisbane Roar were a blunt weapon without Besart Berisha. Sydney aren’t a weapon at all. Even with Del Piero Sydney’s as deadly as a toothpick.

Positives? The crowd of 40,388 was Sydney’s biggest home attendance for a regular season match. The atmosphere in the stadium was wonderful, mainly due to the RBB. Anyone with a Sydney shirt but not a season ticket would have been looking at Wanderers fans, comparing them with The Cove, and thinking, “Why the hell am I supporting this team? I want to be part of that!”

Match stats

Crowd: 40,338

Sydney FC:

20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk), 2. Sebastian Ryall, 3. Marc Warren, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 11. Richard Garcia, 13. Tiago Calvano, 14. Mitchell Mallia (46’ Yairo Yau), 16. Joel Chianese, 19. Nick Carle (c), 22. Ali Abbas, 23. Rhyan Grant (40’ Matthew Thompson)
Subs not used: 1. Ivan Necevski (Gk), 5. Matthew Jurman, 27. Christopher Naumoff
Yellow cards: Chianese 40′, Warren 69′, Abbas 73′, Carle 88′.
Red cards: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers FC:

1. Ante Covic (Gk), 3. Adam D’apuzzo, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Michael Beauchamp(C), 6. Jerome Polenz, 8. Mateo Poljak, 9. Tomi Juric (77’ Shannon Cole), 17. Youssouf Hersi (46’ Brendon Santalab), 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge, 21. Shinji Ono (86’ Tahj Minniecon).
Subs not used: 20. Jerrad Tyson (Gk), 23. Jason Trifiro.
Yellow cards: D’apuzzo 30′, Polenz 53′, Juric 62′, Bridge 63′, Santalab 70′
Red cards: Nil


Referee: Strebre Delovski (5/10)
Assistants: Paul Cetrangolo, Sarah Ho, Stephen Lucas

BOTN player points:

3. Shinji Ono (Wanderers)
2. Jerome Polenz (Wanderers)
1. Nikola Petkovic (Sydney)

Pitch: 7/10

Game: 6/10

By Stephen Webb

Photo gallery, including Pascal Bosschaart’s farewell from the Sydney fans.