Sydney made to work hard for Wellington win

by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 2
7pm, Sunday 15 October, 2017 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 3 (Michael Zullo 34′, Bobô 29′, 49′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Andrija Kaluderovic 44′, Dario Vidosic 60′)


Reigning Hyundai A-League champions Sydney FC maintained their perfect start to the 2017-18 campaign at Allianz Stadium on October 15, but they were made to work all the way for their 3-2 win over a Wellington Phoenix side which did not go away, much to the surprise of the 11,284 fans present.

Indeed, the visitors came roaring out of the blocks from the outset, and could have had two goals inside the opening two minutes. Michael McGlinchey’s free-kick picked out the head of Andrija Kaludjerovic, whose powerful header was fumbled by Andrew Redmayne.

The ‘keeper recovered the ball before Dario Vidosic could pounce, but Redmayne was in action again seconds later, parrying a Roy Krishna shot to safety after Matthew Ridenton had intercepted a Sydney pass half-way inside the home team’s half and invited Vidosic to play in the Fijian striker.

Sydney were somewhat startled by their opponents’ eagerness to take the game to them, but it wasn’t long before the title-holders reasserted themselves and restored order to the early chaos.

Just seven minutes into the contest, they carved out their first chance. Luke Wilkshire’s ball forward was deftly flicked inside by Alex Brosque to the impressive Adrian Mierzejewski, who had Bobo and Milos Ninkovic to right and left of him respectively.

The Pole, who sadly had to be withdrawn early in the second half with a hamstring twinge, opted to present Bobo with the chance to open the scoring, but as he was pulling the trigger, Andrew Durante slid in to avert the danger.

Tom Doyle produced a similar challenge nine minutes later to deny Mierzejewski as he looked to convert an opening provided by Brosque, while seconds later, a lofted cross by Bobo was spilled by Wellington’s young goalkeeper, Keegan Smith, who turned round to find Durante on hand to tidy up.

Encouraged, Sydney continued to press, and in the 28th minute should have opened the scoring. Mierzejewski played a peach of a pass into the stride of Brosque, who was clean through on goal with just Smith to beat, a feat he achieved with a curling shot.

Unfortunately for Sydney’s captain, the ball arced the wrong side of the upright, but his despair was short-lived, as within sixty seconds the home team opened the scoring. Josh Brillante, Ninkovic and Brosque combined to unlock the door, and this time Bobo wasn’t to be denied – 1-0.

Five minutes later, Sydney doubled their advantage, a move which began with Wilkshire releasing Mierzejewski down the right. From the by-line, he delivered a beautifully weighted cross which was tailor-made for Brosque to head home, save for the fact he was nudged off balance just as he was rising to do so.

Before Sydney had a chance to appeal for a penalty, however, Michael Zullo appeared on the scene, and without breaking stride, smashed a piledriver into the net via the outstretched leg of Wellington defender Daniel Mullen.

2-0 to the good with ten minutes to go until half-time, Sydney looked to be well on course for a predictable three points. But somewhere along the way, Wellington received a different version of the script, and proceeded to introduce it to the mix.

The result? A goal on the stroke of half-time which put the game well and truly in the balance, and left plenty to play for in the second spell. It came out of the blue, with Durante’s ball forward flicked on by Vidosic into the stride of Kaludjerovic, who unleashed a superbly timed volleyed finish across Redmayne and into the far corner.

Wellington gained renewed vigour from the goal, but they were soon on the back foot again, with Sydney restoring their two-goal advantage four minutes into the second half. A Mierzejewski cross was headed out to Wilkshire, whose angled cross back into the danger zone was headed home from six yards by Bobo, who gave Smith no chance.

Back came Sydney’s swagger, together with their appetite for more goals. But it was Wellington who threatened again just two minutes later, Jordy Buijs forced to steer the ball past his own upright as McGlinchey’s searching cross was lined by Vidosic, arriving on the far post.

Cue more Sydney pressure, Wilkshire and Ninkovic combining on the right to present Brosque with a low cross which he was prevented from doing justice to by the ever-vigilant figure of Durante, who was the subject of penalty claims by the home team in the 65th minute as a point-blank range penalty area cross from Bobo hit the defender’s hand.

Referee Kurt Ams rightly ignored these groundless claims, just as he rightly awarded Wellington’s second goal of the night five minutes earlier, a towering twelve yard header by Vidosic which left Redmayne rooted to the spot as the striker capitalised on McGlinchey’s beautifully flighted cross, delivered after he had produced a delightful piece of ball control to kill the dropping ball.

Suitably miffed at the visitors’ refusal to submit, the title-holders piled on the pressure in search of a fourth – and surely clinching – goal. Substitute David Carney went close with a diving header after working a one-two with Ninkovic, while the buccaneering figure of Buijs saw his shot on the run turned round the post by Smith seventeen minutes from time.

Five minutes later, Wellington’s ‘keeper was beaten by Matt Simon’s fine shot on the turn, which sizzled narrowly past the far post. The newcomer went close twice more in stoppage time, curling one effort past the far upright after Smith had smothered his fierce shot after Simon had outpaced the defence.

Wellington were still within a goal of their hosts, however, Zullo having cleared off the line from Vidosic in stoppage time as the striker met McGlinchey’s measured corner with a firm header.

But by this time they should have been on level terms, and it was a wrong call by an official which Sydney had to thank for their three-point haul. Substitute Ali Abbas was clearly onside as he was released down the left, with Hamish Watson for company and just Redmayne standing between them and a 3-3 scoreline.

That was until referee’s assistant Scott Edeling mis-read the angle of the pass and wrongly called the perennially offside figure of Watson as being in the active area of play, even though he was nowhere near the ball on this occasion. (Some would prefer this was the case all the time!)

Were Watson blessed with a footballing brain, there is no way on earth he would stray offside as frequently as he does. Sadly, he lacks any understanding of the concept of positional awareness on a football pitch, and on this occasion, it has contributed to an officiating error which has denied Wellington a shock share of the spoils at the home of the reigning champions, a share their performance merited.

Match details

Crowd: 11,284

Sydney FC: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 4. Alexander WILKINSON, 5. Jordy BUIJS, 6. Joshua BRILLANTE, 7. Michael ZULLO, 9. BOBÔ (8. Paulo RETRE, 90’), 10. Miloš NINKOVIĆ, 11. Adrian MIERZEJEWSKI (17. David CARNEY, 54’), 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 14. Alex BROSQUE (18. Matt SIMON, 68’), 26. Luke WILKSHIRE.

Subs Not Used: 30. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (GK), 22. Sebastian RYALL.
Yellow Card(s): Nil

Coach: Graham Arnold

Wellington Phoenix FC: 30. Keegan SMITH (GK), 2. Daniel MULLEN (17. Ali ABBAS, 59’), 3. Scott GALLOWAY, 4. Goran PARACKI, 8. Dario VIDOSIC, 9. Andrija KALUDEROVIC, 10. Michael MCGLINCHEY, 19. Thomas DOYLE, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Matthew RIDENTON (12. Adam PARKHOUSE, 59’).

Subs Not Used: 1. Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 11. Hamish WATSON, 14. Alex RUFER.
Yellow Card(s): Durante 55’, Krishna 77’

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Points and ratings, by Jeremy Ruane

Referee: Kurt Ams 6/10
Match 6/10
Pitch 7/10

Players points
3 Mierzejewski:
2 Vidosic
1 McGlinchey