Blog: Wanderers outed by Sky Blues

Coaches say the darndest things.

In his post-match interview, Tony Popovic claimed that his side dominated the match and were only undone by his side’s poor defending.  All was well with the Wanderers, apparently, and a few errors made the difference between the sides. Oh, and the refereeing.

It was the ref what did it!

Stats don’t lie, Poppa.

The cold hard facts

Total shots:  17-4

Shots on target: 6-1 (that’s one shot on target for their two goals!)

Shots from inside the box: 13-1

Possession: 62.5%-37.5%

Corners: 15-3

Total passes: 463-219

Passing accuracy: 83.4%-64.8%

Outplayed. Outpassed. Outclassed. Outthought. Outfought. Outcoached.

Sorry Poppa, I am not sure who you are trying to kid. Too many Sudafeds?

Even allowing for the Wanderers’ two goal lead, one an excellent run by the classy Romeo Castelen followed by Mark Bridge’s cool finish and the other one tragicomical, there was only one team in the contest.

And the stats bear out as much. Other than picking the ball out of his net on two occasions, Vedran Janjetovic had next to nothing to do all night.

These are the facts.

And they are indisputable.

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Some of us football tragics never dreamed that one day, a derby between two local clubs would pack out the Sydney Football Stadium. And this is now the norm rather than the exception.

My personal view is that the Sydney Derby should be played once a season at Allianz, once at Parramatta and the third at Homebush, FFA heavily promoting it to eventually pack out the 80K capacity stadium, making it a must-see event on the Sydney sporting calendar.

That’s how big this thing can get.

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In a classic derby encounter, there was plenty of passion, controversy and quality to satisfy everyone, from the football purist to the occasional visitor who just wants to be entertained. Examining the more controversial moments:

Controversy 1

Sash Ognenovski’s goal

Popovic’s offside claims are disingenuous.

Here’s how it happened  – as Big Sash takes the shot, Bernie Ibini is standing in a “passive offside” position, not interfering with play. The ball is aimed (if that’s what you’d call it) at the middle of the goal, with Ibini standing on the left post.

Covic dives towards the middle to make the save.

The ball deflects of a Wanderer leg, changing direction and trickling to the left side of the goal.

Covic lies sprawled in the middle of the goal.

If Bernie touches the ball, he is offside. Instead, he wisely lets it go, putting himself in a passive offside position as the ball rolls into goal, unchallenged by keeper or defender.

GOAL - Correct call by Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Controversy 2

Wanderers’ second goal

Have a close look at the slo-mo and you’ll see Brendan Santalab giving Sash Ognenovski a nudge – pushing Sash into our keeper, just enough to put Janjetovic off his jump. Is it still Vedran’s error? Absolutely, and I am sure he would be the first one to raise his hand. But the nudge was there.

GOAL - Correct call by Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Controversy 3

The sending-off

I can understand Popovic’s frustration. For two seasons reckless, lunging Wanderer challenges were punished by referees’ furrowed brow and a gentle tut-tut. Last season’s agricultural leg breakers by Jerome Polenz and Aaron Mooy on Richard Garcia and Alessandro Del Piero, and Iacopo La Rocca’s penchant for the elbow to the heads of opponents too numerous to mention, went unpunished.

Deserved red cards were not given and Poppa’s whining stems from not being used to receiving red cards for red card offences. 

It was a clear sending off and idiots who suggest it wasn’t simply because Saba failed to shatter Antonis’ right fibula miss the point entirely. Under the rules, there doesn’t need to be contact. A reckless, flying, studs up challenge is a red card whether it connects or not.

RED CARD - Correct call by Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Controversy 4

The pitch invasion

While the Cove’s passion is understandable (we were all screaming our lungs out!), the pitch invasion, while absolutely harmless in its intent, was wrong. I really hope the FFA take it for what it was – a spontaneous expression of ecstasy in what was a Boys’ Own ending – but I have a feeling more is to come of this.

Controversy 5

The flares

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t mind the pyro – it only adds to the spectacle.

But FFA take a very dim view of flares and my understanding is that the Wanderers were on their last warning. Will the Wanderers slide down the table from 0 to -3 points, as threatened by the FFA?

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The emotion

Enough with the facts, the derby was super-charged adrenalin on steroids.

That bouncing bundle of emotion, Corey Gameiro, continued his golden run, giving it to the jeering RBB in celebration on the stroke of halftime.

Sash Ognenovski was colossal, and the sight of blood draining from Brendon Santalab’s face upon realising he’d picked a fight with the wrong bloke was hilarious. He never recovered.

Ognenovski won the headers and tackles that mattered, but it was his never-ending passion for the Sky Blue shirt that made all the difference. You need to win the fight to win the derby and the former Asian Player of the Year literally willed his team to victory. Don’t mess with Big Sash.

Ali Abbas came on and received a standing ovation. Last time round he was on the wrong end of a Santalab (“alleged”) bigoted spray. We made Ali feel at home and he responded by cutting Shannon Cole to shreds.

Nikola Petkovic and Janjetovic blowing kisses at the RBB on full time after the latter had been pelted with bottles throughout the contest? Loved it. The Cove doing the Poznan at the RBB after Brosquey scored the winner? We were cracking up in the stands. It was our time.

Does it feel like Alex Brosque never left? Well, yes and no. I see a new, improved version of Brosque – a better all-round footballer who has retained the pace and finishing of old. Would he have had the awareness to play that back heel pass four years ago? I don’t think so.

We love Brosquey, we really do. Time to resurrect “Brosque, Brosque will tear you apart, Again”.

He deserves that and more. Club legend.

The keeper

Sydney fans must keep faith with Janjetovic. Even Clint Bolton made high profile errors and Janjetovic is destined to assume Bolton’s mantle. At age 27 he is still a year or so off his goalkeeping prime and will undoubtedly become a club legend, such is his talent.

The quiet colossus

They say games are won in midfield and Sydney clearly won the day in the middle of the park (see stats above). Terry Antonis had a good game – not his best but a terrific all round effort nonetheless.

But it is his midfield partner who, for mine, was the best player on the field. Milos Dimitrijevic arrived in the country out of shape and still managed a terrific contribution in our run to the finals last season.

A quiet and unassuming man who prefers to let his feet do the talking, he demonstrated his complete array of skills on Saturday night, destroying the visitors’ midfield pairing of Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca with a feint and a dribble time and again, and was involved in most good things for the Sky Blues.

They say he isn’t a patch on his old man, the late great Zoran Dimitrijevic. If that’s the case, Zoran must have been one hell of a player.

The backline

Other than one error apiece from Janjetovic and young Alex Gersbach (who was otherwise most impressive), the back four were impenetrable and in truth, much like our keeper, had comparatively little to do all night. Build-up from the back was very good, though still a work in progress. And while Big Sash led the confrontation, I thought Petkovic and Seb Ryall were excellent.

To sum up

Poppa’s whining is unseemly as we played the Wanderers off the park.

A deserved, emotion-charged win that will live long in Sky Blue memory.

What a night. 

My Sydney FC points award:

3 – Milos Dimitrijevic; 2 – Alex Brosque; 1 – Nikola Petkovic

Going forward

It’s FFA Cup night this Tuesday and Arnie has an array of talent to choose from. Making just one substitution on Saturday night, the coach has a fit and raring Ivan Necevski, Pedj Bojic, Aaron Calver, Matt Jurman, Peter Triantis, Nick Carle, Hagi Gligor, Chris Naumoff and Shane Smeltz to pick from. And Abbas only got 10 minutes so is ready to play his part. 

My guess is that from Saturday night’s first XI, Janjetovic, Petkovic and Gameiro will start against Adelaide United as Arnold keeps one eye on the tricky but very winnable Brisbane Roar fixture this Friday.

Three games in seven days. Can we make it a trifecta?

I believe we can. Roll on Cup Night.