Much of the action took place in the week leading up to the match with both Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory missing key players to international duty.
The Sky Blues fought for the inclusion of Terry Antonis, to no avail. After all the talking was done, a football game broke out on Saturday night, but the arch enemies could not be separated in a scoreless draw at Allianz Stadium.
Pace and rhythm
Carl Valeri spoke of this, specifically regarding the first half, on Fox Sports post match and on evidence, even the most ardent anti-Victory football supporter would agree.
Despite a lineup reshuffle, little changed on field as Victory worked its way through Sydney repeatedly, bouncing passes off each other in narrow spaces to create chances.
Broxham remained at centre-back, his natural instincts to push forward and set up play worked, particularly when linking with Valeri and Gui Finkler. Unfortunately, it meant nothing.
The first half was littered with wasted chances. Why Fahid ben Khalfallah did not go alone and slot past Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic after dispossessing Sasa Ognenovski was inexplicable.
Chance after chance followed, with the vast majority of the club’s 11 shots (three on target) coming in the first half. Which just goes to show that no matter how good the depth, tactics and set-up, it all means nothing unless the ball ends up in the net.
While retaining a solid core of the best XI, particularly in the front third, Victory was near bare bones towards the end of the game. Key players couldn’t train until late in the week after soreness from the week prior, and it showed as Sydney seized control for most of the second half.
Victory’s shape began to fall away, and key players began to tire, so the opportunity to give more youth a chance should been taken by giving Jordan Brown and Kieran Dover 10 minutes. After all, we know what happens when a Victory youth gets a chance in Sydney, don’t we?
Depth shines again
The unavailable list read like this: Daniel Georgievski, Connor Pain, Scott Galloway, Matthieu Delpierre, Mark Milligan, Jason Geria, Kosta Barbarouses and Ansell was returned through the NYL. It’s a high quality list out of action. It didn’t matter and for the second time this season, a makeshift defence kept a clean sheet.
This has been reiterated in the past few weeks, but more and more evidence emerges that no player is irreplaceable and there is a defined plan that all players in the squad are capable of slotting into.
As much as it was frustrating to see chances missed, the onus has to be on the home side to win, and Victory did not let it happen in hostile territory and against a side that got in its face. Not much new was gleaned and now Victory will look to six out of their next seven matches being held at home to really push for a first-placed finish.
Dragged around in the first, but regroup in the second
Victory was able to make Sydney chase in the first half by shifting the ball wide and also playing through Sydney’s lines and narrow spaces. Sydney got outnumbered while Hagi Gligor and Chris Naumoff were ineffectual with only some last ditch defending preventing Sydney from falling behind. Coach Graham Arnold’s subs also helped shift the game.
Arnold replaced Naumoff and Gligor with Peter Triantis and Alex Gersbach and, later, took off red-card-in-waiting Seb Ryall for Pedj Bojic. Triantis was particularly effective in midfield next to Milos Dimitrijevic, bringing a more solid presence and marking Finkler in the second half, turning the momentum Sydney’s way.
Janjetovic saves Sydney
For most part, Sydney were kept in the game by a man-of-the-match performance by Vedran Janjetovic. His save on Ben Khalfallah was the pick of the bunch, dominating his area and blocking key shots. A coach should be able to count on every single player selected, including the keeper.
Points lost or point gained?
Being at home, having proved to be a far more superior unit than they have been recently, and against a depleted rival, Sydney should see the scoreless draw as points missed rather than a point gained.
Arnold’s team deserves credit for being an organized side that is hard to break down, but their forward half (Alex Brosque aside) has not clicked with the same efficiency. While conceding the least amount of goals so far, they have only out-scored Western Sydney Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets, which is a hardly a ringing endorsement for their attacking stocks.
If Antonis was released by the Socceroos, and was cleared and able to play on the weekend then he should have. The same goes for Milligan. But that misses the point, which is that the A-League should have international breaks.
Without a break the game was ultimately far less of a spectacle than it could have been – a shame for two great rivals near the top of the table. On the matter of breaks Sydney CEO Tony Pignata said something has to give. Unfortunately, following FFA boss David Gallop’s comments on the issue, it does not look like happening.