A deeper shade of blue

By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 6
7:40pm, Saturday 14th November 2015 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 2 (Brosque 20′, Holosko 5′)
lost to
Melbourne Victory FC 4 (Besart Berisha 9′, 90’+2, Gui Finkler 27′, Kosta Barbarouses 67′)


Last season Sydney FC proved that they were as good a team as any on the road, but lacked consistency at home, before losing the most important away game of all, the Grand Final against Melbourne Victory.

This season they’d begun well enough and picked up useful away wins at Newcastle and Central Coast, but at home, while some might care to dismiss the thought, any sense of maintaining the Sydney Football Stadium as a fortress, mostly remained a theoretical wish.

After a last-gasp win against Western Sydney Wanderers, there was a tense stalemate against Brisbane Roar, coming into this game, which failed to produce a goal. The opening game of the season had been similarly unconvincing.

The goals in the away matches at Newcastle and at Central Coast had come late in the piece, as well, but sitting atop the table gave Sydney FC’s fans plenty to be pleased about before taking on the old enemy from the Victorian capital.

Yet hopes were high for this game and not only about winning the match, but hopefully also showing the Dark Blues who was boss.

In stark contrast to the game against Brisbane, this was an open affair and a great feast of entertainment. And for the neutrals – if any – there were goals aplenty.

But for home fans not enough came at the right end to allow the Sky Blues to prevail, despite playing at a high level and doing enough to win most matches, based on their strong penetrative work and slick passing, allied to sheer speed on both flanks.

Sadly for the home team supporters, Melbourne were just as proficient, if not more so, chiefly in the area of clinical finishing.

Whereas Sydney FC players struck the woodwork twice, their visitors barely put a foot wrong within sight of goal, scoring some clever goals and at the other end riding their luck, considering many of their first-choice players were absent due to international call-up requirements.

They were without suspended skipper Carl Valeri, but stand-in Leigh Broxham, who dropped back to the heart of the defence as well, to cover for injured defender, Nick Ansell, rather than playing his usual role in defensive midfield, took on even more responsibility and came through with flying colours.

The visitors also had Scott Galloway, Connor Pain and Jason Geria all away and although another of the international brigade, Kosta Barbarouses, was passed fit to play, late, after missing a game for New Zealand through injury, two days’ earlier, he was only given a spot on the bench.

Even with those men missing, Victory looked a class act, as they have done all season, even allowing for one loss in six games.

Sydney FC coach, Graham Arnold, elected to bring left-back Alex Gersbach into his team, switching Rhyan Grant to the right and dropping Sebastian Ryall to the bench.

That move appeared to work a treat, both young players running amok down their respective flanks.

But defensively, perhaps, they were not quite as effective, though it was mostly through the middle that the Melbourne side did the damage; that and some brilliant work by seasoned striker, Besart Berisha, every inch the top marksman in the A League and continuing to demonstrate it.

In wide midfielder, Gui Finkler, however, Berisha had a willing ally, a player who used his own special magic to score one individual goal and certainly to have a big hand in the outcome of the match.

Before that, however, Sydney FC fans were on good terms with themselves as their beloved side hit the front after only five minutes.

Berisha had gone down in the Sydney penalty area only two minutes into the game, but he received no support from referee, Chris Beath, who had his hands full controlling two teams full of experienced players engaged in what was fast becoming a thrilling contest.

Sydney youngster Gersbach, released down the left, gave his marker the slip and crossed low to the far post where Filip Holosko arrived at just the right moment to tap into the net and make it 1-0.

Dylan Murnane provided Berisha with his first opportunity, after being denied a penalty, by crossing smartly from the right, with the Albanian showing typical striker’s instinct to finish with alacrity, just five minutes after Sydney had hit the front.

Ten minutes later Shane Smeltz got past his man down the right and whipped the ball across to the near-post where Victory keeper, Danny Vukovic, could only get a glove to the effort and deflect it in the path of skipper Alex Brosque who bundled into the net and restored the Sky Blues’ lead.

Perhaps still believing that they had the ammunition to put Victory to the sword, Sydney FC continued to show adventure on the flanks and press for a third goal, but Finkler was hard at work out on the right and took full toll on a less than vigilant Sydney defence in the 28th minute.

Wide out and with few obvious passing options, the Brazilian managed to brilliantly tuck the ball past Sky Blues’ keeper, Vedran Janjetovic, at his near-post and there was nothing accidental about it at all.

Chastened after surrendering the lead twice, Sydney may have been less cavalier in the second-half, but Victory certainly were not shutting up shop.

Coach Kevin Muscat brought on the supposedly half-fit Barbarouses at half-time, a player who always causes problems for defenders when fully fit and half a game was enough for him to do much the same here.

A corner on the hour mark saw Smeltz rock the crossbar from close range before defender Matt Jurman got onto the rebound, only to see his effort scrape the woodwork of the left upright before going harmlessly out for  a goal kick.

Brosque came down under a strong challenge from Matthieu Delpierre two minutes later, but that was not going to impress those who might have given a penalty kick, as this was just not a day for those generosities!

Finkler got his team back in front, though not personally, but through his actions in smart lead-up work, bringing a goal that was dismissed as a fluke by beaten coach Arnold, post-match.

Finkler struck the ball from 25 yards out, in the general direction of the goal, but probably off-target, before it deflected off defender Mickael Tavares and into the path of Barbarouses on the right of the area, who was able to pick his spot cleverly and finish across the suddenly exposed Janjetovic.

A somewhat fortuitous 3-2 lead, then, to the visitors, though they’d looked at least Sydney’s equal for most of the game and more than capable of going on with it.

They pressed their advantage over the closing stages and while Sydney substitute, Matt Simon, came on for Smeltz with 20 to go, the former Central Coast man could not get on the end of a smart Gersbach cross in the 83rd, which might have seen him scoring a vital goal again off the bench, as he had done against his former club just recently.

Instead, it was Melbourne Victory who found the net again, this time well into stoppage-time and through the efforts of Berisha once again.

Shortly after Finkler had slotted wide from a nice Barbarouses pass from the right, Berisha, this time out wide on the left, beat the keeper at his near-post again to seal Sydney’s fate with an individual strike of some quality.

Match details

Crowd:  15,947

Sydney FC:  1. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 3. Alex GERSBACH, 5. Matt JURMAN, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9. Shane SMELTZ (18. Matt SIMON 69’) 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 14. Alex BROSQUE (c), 19. Jacques FATY, 21. Filip HOLOSKO (24. George BLACKWOOD 78’), 23. Rhyan GRANT, 27. Mickael TAVARES (13. Brandon O’NEILL 85’).
Subs not used: 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (rgk), 2. Seb RYALL.

Yellow cards: Mickael Tavares 25’, Alex Brosque 45’, Filip Holosko 64’, Matt Simon 90+7’; Red cards: Nil.

Coach: Graham Arnold

Melbourne Victory FC: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER (22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS 90+4’), 8.Besart BERISHA, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (19.George HOWARD 89’), 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 24.Thomas DENG (9.Kosta BARBAROUSES 46’).
Subs not used: 20.Lawrence THOMAS (rgk), 32.Stefan NIGRO.

Yellow cards: Gui Finkler 33’, Kosta Barbarouses 79’; Red cards: Nil

Coach: Kevin Muscat

Referee: Chris Beath 8/10
Assistants: Paul Cetrangolo and Nathan MacDonald
Fourth Official: Stephen Lucas

Ratings and points
Player points:
3. Gui Finkler (MV)
2. Alex Gersbach (SFC)
1. Besart Berisha (MV)

Match 9/10
Pitch 9/10

By Corinthian (Paul Green)