Sydney stay focused to win passionate derby

Vedran Janjetovic

By Stephen Webb:

Hyundai A-League 2014-15 Season
Round 2
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday October 18, 7.30 pm

Sydney FC 3 (Gameiro 45’, Ognenovski 48’, Brosque 79’) defeated
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (Bridge 18’, Janjetovic (OG) 24’)

What more could you want (except for a win, if you were a Wanderers fan)!

A stadium packed with vocal rival fans, a physical game, a hotly contested derby, flares, flare-ups, a pitch invasion of sorts, a red card, and a come-from behind win!

And, just for good measure, another sentence ending with an exclamation mark!

It ended up being a lot of fun (if you were a Sydney fan) but the match wasn’t as close as the score line suggests.

Sydney held the ball for the first five minutes — for a change — and went on to keep 68 per cent of possession with 83 per cent passing accuracy. They well and truly dominated.

Only late in the first half, after two barely-deserved goals, did Wanderers press with any conviction.

In the seventh minute Vitor Saba fouled a very unhappy Sasa Ognenovski. Nikola Petkovic’s free kick found Marc Janko at the left post. Janko headed back in for Bernie Ibini to shoot high.

The obvious tactic of firing in crosses for the tall Janko wasn’t very successful because Wanderers’ backline is good in the air and Antony Golec and Nikolai Topor-Stanley are pretty tall also.

In the tenth minute Corey Gameiro on the left crossed to the right for Ibini to have a shot deflected over the crossbar. When the corner was cleared Gameiro shot into the crowded penalty area.

Wanderers were just absorbing the pressure, occasionally responding with a counter attack.

Ibini erred and recovered before Milos Dimitrijevic erred and Wanderers failed to capitalise.

Alex Brosque fouled Romeo Castelen but Wanderers couldn’t keep possession after the free kick. Sydney built again.

Wanderers won another free kick, taken by Saba from the right. Vedran Janjetovic punched the ball clear from the top left corner of goal. When Romeo Castelen crossed the ball back in from the right Mark Bridge was unmarked on the penalty spot to drive it past Janjetovic. It was a well-taken chance but surprising given the way the match had been shaping up.

Brosque nearly had a chance to regain the balance but was covered by Wanderers’ defence and pushed his shot to the right of goal.

Sebastian Ryall earned a yellow card for a foul on Iacopo La Rocca and Wanderers won a dubious corner, taken from the left (a notable tactic of the Wanderers was to whip in corners very quickly, before the defence had time to think about who to mark). When the ball came in Sasa Ognenovski popped it high into the air. It came down on Janjetovic, who misjudged it horribly and flapped the ball under the crossbar. The visitors were two goals up. It didn’t seem possible. Wanderers had one shot on goal and were two goals up. Sydney were rattled and Wanderers took advantage of their nervousness.

Brendan Santalab earned his yellow for a foul on Ognenovski behind play and Wanderers pressed with resolve to prevent Sydney regaining composure.

Brosque made a good break but his pass couldn’t find Ibini. Then Ibini got away but wasted a chance to release Ryall.

When Ryall did get an opportunity to run down the right he hit a long cross to Gameiro, who lobbed a shot just wide — and assistant referee Sarah Ho was flagging for offside in any case.

Saba struck a speculative shot wide to the right.

Things were looking dismal for Sydney as half time approached. But then Alexander Gersbach hit a long ball down the left for Brosque, who played back for Gameiro to shoot across goal inside the right post.

Sydney had a goal and conversation among Sydney fans around me switched quickly from “We won’t come back from here” to “We’ll win this 3-2”.

Coach Graham Arnold had changed Sydney’s formation to 4-2-3-1 to provide some solidity in midfield and, having scored, the home side started the second half with much more confidence. And didn’t let up.

Ryall was soon into the right of the Wanderers penalty area, where he went to the goal line and won a corner from Mateo Poljak. Gameiro was at the far post but Brendan Hamill headed the ball away for another corner.

Sydney had a succession of blocked shots until Gameiro fired one at Hamill that deflected for another corner. Following more blocked shots Ognenovski squeezed a trickling shot against the legs of Castelen and Topor-Stanley, through the legs of Ibini and inside the left post. Scores were level.

It very nearly turned ugly for Sydney when Janjetovic again miscalculated, this time venturing out to the top right corner of his area and giving the ball to the opposition. The goal was wide open but Bridge’s rushed effort from distance went wide.

Dimitrijevic hit a great ball for Brosque, who fell over. Saba had an exciting break but Ibini brought him down and was shown yellow. Saba’s free kick was pathetic.

Testiness and niggles in the first half escalated into a lot more “feeling” in the second half.

Brosque, proving to be quite the leader by example, went on a strenuous chase and won a corner. The ball just cleared Ognenovski at the far post but Sydney won another corner. A shot from Gemeiro outside the box was deflected for another corner. Ognenovski copped a yellow card for playing silly buggers in front of the Wanderers’ goal but Sydney won yet another corner, which Ante Covic punched over the sideline. Sydney persisted from the throw in and won another corner (“There’s nothing like practice!”), which Janko hit high.

In case anyone was counting, Sydney won 15 corners to Wanderers’ three.

Another ball into the Wanderers’ penalty area bounced just too long for Brosque and Janko.

Then, with more than 20 minutes to go, all hope for Wanderers dissolved. Saba launched himself dangerously at Terry Antonis and referee Kris Griffiths-Jones raised a red card. During the subsequent recriminatory scuffles Ognenovski flicked Saba’s head and the decision of the Match Review Panel would see the Sydney defender miss Tuesday night’s Westfield FFA Cup quarter final against Adelaide United.

Castelen, one of Wanderers’ most effective in attack, was replaced by Shannon Cole, Hamill did well to stop Janko, Sydney won another corner and a header from Ryall was tipped over the crossbar.

Kwabena Appiah-Kubi replaced Hamill and Cole did well to stop Janko on a long ball high into the box.

Petkovic played a marvellous long switch to Ryall, whose cross to Brosque was headed wide to the left of goal.

Sydney’s third goal had to come and it didn’t take much longer. In the 79th minute Gameiro set up Brosque in the left of the Wanderers’ penalty area. Brosque stabbed the ball across Covic inside the right post. Sydney fans were delirious, some jumping the fence to congratulate the skipper. Wanderers’ fans hid their tears, turning their backs for the Poznan, which was due at that moment.

There was more applause as Gameiro came off for Ali Abbas; one favourite on for another.

With three minutes of normal time to go Labinot Haliti replaced Daniel Mullen — in hindsight a mistake because Brendan Santalab was to limp off in stoppage time with Wanderers down to nine men.

With Abbas’s fresh legs Sydney were rampant. Abbas had two good runs down the left, one time crossing for Ibini, whose shot was deflected by Golec for a corner.

The Sydney line-up benefitted from the return of international players Janko and Ibini, though Janko didn’t have a chance to really shine and Ibini joined Janjetovic in being Sydney’s most disappointing on the night. Gersbach, making his first start, replacing Matthew Jurman at left back, must have reinforced his claim on that position. Abbas looked good during his brief appearance, Antonis and Dimitrijevic were in fine fettle, Ryall was again excellent and Brosque, if he wasn’t already the fans’ favourite, further justified that claim.

Saba had flashes of goodness until the send-off, Castelen was impressive, La Rocca worked hard and Hamill made several important blocks.

Arnold said he thought the second half was a “barrage”. “We were down their end nearly the whole time. It was good.”

The result left Sydney sharing second place on the table while Wanderers are at the bottom with no points after two rounds.

Match stats:

Attendance: 41, 213

Sydney FC:
20. Vedran Janjetovic, 2. Seb Ryall, 3. Sasa Ognenovski, 6. Nikola Petkovic, 7. Corey Gameiro (22. Ali Abbas 82’), 8. Milos Dimitrijevic, 11. Bernie Ibini-Isei, 13. Alex Gersbach, 14. Alex Brosque (c), 17. Terry Antonis, 21. Marc Janko.
Subs Not Used: 1. Ivan Necevski, 4. Pedj Bojic, 13. Christopher Naumoff, 19. Nick Carle
Yellow Cards: Ryall 23’, Ibini 55’, Ognenovski 60’
Red Cards: None.

Western Sydney Wanderers FC:
1. Ante Covic, 3. Daniel Mullen (7. Labinot Haliti 87’), 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 5. Brendan Hamill (14. Kwabena Appiah-Kubi 75’), 6. Antony Golec, 8. Mateo Poljak, 10. Vitor Saba, 11. Brendan Santalab, 17. Romeo Castelen (2. Shannon Cole 72’), 18. Iacopo La Rocca, 19. Mark Bridge.
Subs Not Used: 20. Dean Bouzanis, 23. Jason Trifiro
Yellow Cards:  Santalab 35’
Red Cards: Saba 68’.

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistants: Sarah Ho, Leigh Pigram
Fourth Official: Stephen Lucas

Best players:
3. Alex Brosque (Sydney FC)
2. Dimitrijevic (Sydney FC)
1. Antonis (Sydney FC)

Report and photographs by Stephen Webb