Sky Blues home comfortably at Lambert Park against Canberra visitors

By Paul Green
Foxtel National Youth League – Version 2 – Season 2 – Round 6 (Conference B)

6:30pm, Friday 29 December 2017 – Lambert Park, Leichhardt

Sydney FC 3 (Christopher Zuvela 29′, 33′, Hassan Jalloh 86′)
Canberra United FC 0


For a while at Lambert Park last Friday night the improving Sydney FC National Youth League side struggled to break through against an only recently-formed Canberra United side and much of the reason for that was the stubborn defence provided by the visitors who had shown little in attacks of their own to pose much threat to the Sky Blues.

It wasn’t just sound defence by the men in marking roles, however, as goalkeeper Samuel Brown made countless saves and was a clear man-of-the-match, continuing to thwart his opponents long after they’d already established their superiority and taken a clear lead, doing all that was humanly possible to keep the scoreline down.

The Canberra side made a change at half-time, bringing on Mate Baricic, who was clearly more intent on finding a chink in the Sydney defensive armour than the man he’d replaced, though that may have been due to tactical considerations, of course, from the coach.

Two goals from Sydney’s busy midfielder, Christopher Zuvela, around the 30 minute mark changed the thinking in the Canberra camp, no doubt, as they’d held out well to that stage, with not a little help from an alert keeper and a vigilant defence.

Once the deadlock was broken in the 29th and then again in the 33rd the game opened up more as one might have expected.

Sydney coach Robert Stanton never stopped his flow of instructions voiced noisily from the bench as he may have sensed a side that was a little too lethargic at times, at least before the deadlock was broken and before Canberra began to think more about scoring themselves rather than protecting their own keeper.

Brown continued to play his part, but Canberra could not really gain much headway even after sacrificing some more conservative players for more adventurous ones.

Lachlan Griffiths, for example, who came on for the final 15, looked the part, but he could find no way through or any real way to provide the supply necessary for his attacking partners to flourish.

Zuvela, who’d done much of his probing down the left flank, was able to weave his way through to the fringes of the penalty-area before unleashing an unstoppable shot that flew into the roof of the net.

H’ed been denied 18 minutes earlier after accepting a pass from Jerry Skotadis before seeing his well-struck effort brilliantly saved by the Canberra keeper.

By the 32nd he’d doubled his tally and put his side fully in control.

Once again it was Skotadis doing the spade work, this time with a through pass, which Zuvela took in his stride nicely to finish tidily at close range.

Five minutes into the second-half Zuvela might well have earned his hat-trick after stepping up to take a penalty.

Skipper Samuel McIllhatton had got to the right by-line before being bundled over in what seemed a panicked move by a Canberra defender.

It was a quick decision to award the penalty but Zuvela, for some reason, appeared to take his time in weighing up his shot and his apparent lack of confidence was borne out when the impressive Brown guessed correctly and dived to save the spot-kick.

Hassan Jalloh had done a good job for Sydney in leading their attack for most of the game and it was he who eventually managed to score his team’s third in stylish fashion in the 84th minute.

By then Zuvela had been replaced by Marco Tilio in the 72nd and both he and Hassan were looking a handful as Canberra tried desperately to at least find the net before the game was over.

Instead it was Hassan Jalloh who did so, a crisp passing move with William Mutch heavily instrumental in the build-up saw the number 9 finish well even if Brown managed to get a hand to his effort, refusing to give away any goals cheaply.

It was a match Sydney had been expected to win, but full marks to Canberra for effort and application. They had several players in their ranks who could attract interest on a broader platform, their keeper obviously one of them.

Sydney still look a little below the finished product, having started with a tightly-fought draw at home to Newcastle. They have beaten Central Coast and Canberra in recent games and will now be looking to go on with the job.

They next face Newcastle Jets away on Sunday 7th January before returning to Lambert Park on Saturday 13th January.

They have games in hand on some of the other teams, having played only four games to date, losing just the once to Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 away from home.

Match details

Crowd: Approx 150

Sydney FC: 20. Alex Cisak (gk); 2 Joel King, 3 Patrick Flottmann, 12 Aaron Calver (14 Liam McGing 87), 16 William Munch; 15 Jeremy Cox (18 Benjamin Koop 87), Samuel McIllhatton (c), 7 Jerry Skotadis, 6 Andrea Agamemnonos, 19 Christopher Zuvela (Marco Tilio 66); 9 Hassan Jalloh
Unused sub: 1 Duro Dragicevic (rgk)

Yellow cards: Christopher Zuvela 16, Jerry Skotadis 68
Coach: Robert Stanton

Canberra United FC: 1. Samuel Brown (gk); 2 James Fletcher, 3 Daniel Subasic, 4 Jack Green, 6 Antoni Timotheu; Michael Katsoulis, Benjamin Obst, 11 Tomas Krklec (Lachlan Griffiths 75), 12 Thomas Milicevic (20 Mate Barisic 46); 14 Joshua Guleveski, 8 Roko Strika (13 Ross Costanzo 81)
Subs unused: rgk 16 Finn Jurak

Yellow cards: Jack Green 51
Coach: Ryan Grogan

Referee: Adrian Brett 7/10
Assistants: Nathan McOrisi and Jack Casey; Fourth Official: Hassan Jomaa

Points and ratings
Match: 7/10

Players noted: Christopher Zuvela, Hassan Jalloh, Samuel McIllhatton (SFC), Samuel Brown, Michael Katsoulis, Benjamin Obst (CU)

Weather: Mild and humid
Pitch Synthetic 10/10