Sydney Derby: All Square But Two Points Lost For Sydney

The Sydney Derby finished all square on Saturday night. It was a tense affair on the pitch and the crowd was well behaved. In fact, the fans showed that flares aren’t required to be the most interactive support of any code in Australia.

The Match
The match itself began fairly evenly.

The Western Sydney Wanderers used their speed up front to unbalance the back four of Sydney FC. As a Sydney fan, it was extremely worrisome to see the pace at which the away side was using. Part of Sydney’s problem this season is that they lack speed across the park and it was nowhere more obvious than in this game.

Throughout the first half, the Wanderers purposely looked for the long, direct ball in an attempt to exploit Sydney’s defence. It worked just as often, however the Wanderers failed to be clinical.

It was in the 12th minute were instruction worked. A long forward from Andreu was controlled by Mark Bridge, who then delivered an inch-perfect cross to Dario Vidosic. Vidosic nodded the ball for the opening goal, taking advantage of Vedran Janjetovic who was a fraction too far off his line.

The Sky Blues were often guilty of allowing the Wanderers far too much space in midfield throughout the first half. When the probing long ball didn’t work, the away side’s two defensive midfielders were quite happy to initiate a short passing sequence and recycle as necessary.

It was obvious that for Sydney to remain in the game, something needed to change. Matt Simon tried to change that with a tremendous shot that hit the crossbar in the 26th minute.

But arguably, the balance of power shifted toward Sydney in the 30th minute of the game.

A goalmouth scuffle occurred when Liam Reddy flicked the ball into Matt Jurman’s face as Sydney were awarded a corner. Jurman, who seems to hit another level in the derby games, reacted as he is well known for; angrily and he scrunched his face up as he grabbed Reddy by the scruff of the neck.

There was a great intensity in those moments. As the derby continues to develop its story in the city of Sydney, the players certainly played their part in the following moments. There was a moment where you honestly thought that punches were about to be thrown. But the referees were able to contain it and handed out the appropriate punishments: a yellow to both Jurman and Reddy.

It was from this moment where the momentum began to shift.

Six minutes after the goalmouth scuffle, Filip Holosko delivered a cross that was flicked goal-ward by captain Alex Brosque. The ball was headed to the far post but a deflection from Wanderers defender Scott Jamieson ensured Reddy was beaten at the near post.

In the remaining minutes of the first half, Sydney began to exert an influence that would carry over into the second half.

The second half in its entirety was a stark contrast to the first.

It was visible early on in the second half that the Wanderers were out of gas. The tempo at which they played was far less than Sydney’s slow build-up play. They struggled to create opportunities using their speed and on what was visible, it seemed they had thrown everything they had into the first half without further reward.

Sydney FC quickly dominated the half.

Matt Simon had 3 chances which all came close. Matt Jurman had a shot blocked and Andrew Hoole had a late chance go just wide.

The Sky Blues easily controlled the pace of the game. There was a good rhythm to their passing and better movement across the front line and in attack in general. There were many points throughout the second half where you felt that if Sydney scored, they would go on to win the game comfortably.

It might have been a different story had Andrew Redmayne been in goal for the Wanderers. But it wasn’t to be.

It was an improved showing from Harbour City club which went unrewarded. The feeling after the game was that it was very much two points lost for Sydney FC. Their unbeaten run now extends to seven games in the Sydney Derby or just over two years.

Sydney FC:

  • 64’ Simon OFF, Smeltz ON
  • 72’ Brosque OFF, Dimitrijevic ON
  • 79’ Holosko OFF, Hoole ON

Only Andrew Hoole made any impact when he came on. He made good runs, supplied some dangerous crosses and even had an opportunity to score. Hoole has underwhelmed more often than not this season, but this was a rare occasion where he was lively and exploited the weakness of the left flank of the Wanderers.

Both Shane Smeltz and Milos Dimitrijevic were absent, despite their game time.

Smeltz has continuously disappointed this season and his value as a starter, let alone as a substitute is at its minimum. He provided none of the impetus or attacking nous that Matt Simon displayed throughout the night. When comparing Smeltz to Simon in regards to chasing or getting into attacking positions that lead to a chance for them, Smeltz has lingered so far behind Simon this season. I don’t even think Smeltz had a shot in his 26-minute cameo.

Similarly, Dimitrijevic has been a shadow of the player who was all but unplayable last season. His judgment and decision-making have been extremely off par this season and the derby was no exception. He just fit into the flow of the game when he came on and if anything, decreased Sydney’s dominance slightly.

That being said, Graham Arnold made the substitutions. The changes Arnold made were no doubt done in preparation for the flight to Japan for the Asian Champions League game against Urawa Red Diamonds.

I would have brought on Hoole first for Carney, although in hindsight Carney actually played fairly well. After that, the scenario for further substitutions is more difficult.

I would have taken Ninkovic off and replaced him with Dimitrijevic. With Brandon O’Neill still occupying the defensive midfield role, Dimitrijevic would have covered a traditional centre midfield role, while providing support to Brosque who I would’ve tweaked to play a more second striker or attacking midfield role.

After that, I would probably think long and hard about making a third substitution. On one hand, you could sacrifice a defender to bring on Smeltz but you risk getting blown away by the speed of the Wanderers’ attack. On the other hand, you could swap Smeltz for a tired Brosque or Simon.

Would that third change affect the outcome? Maybe, but it’s only a hypothetical and a moot point.

Post Game Quotes
“The performance tonight was outstanding. We had enough chances to win two games, we didn’t finish them off, but overall it was a real good performance from a team that fought very hard. Matty Simon was outstanding today, I thought the boys did very well. I’ve said to the players that that [the performance] is the minimum every week, I don’t want anything less.” – Graham Arnold

“We’re happy with how we played and it’s a good step forward. I think it was a step in the right direction from us. Obviously in the last few weeks the results haven’t been how we wanted them to be so I think we put in a good performance and we’re back to the way we want to play. It was pretty disappointing not to grab all three points in the end.” – Matt Simon

“It’s extremely difficult. I’ve done it in a couple of ACL campaigns now and it’s a matter of play, recover, play, recover. You chuck in 10 hours of flying time plus two hours at each airport at each end, plus buses and so forth, and it’s very tough. It’s just all about management.” – Matt Simon

Man of the Match
It was tough to pick an outstanding performer for the Sky Blues. Matt Jurman and Matt Simon both played very well and are deserving of the award.

The Week Ahead
The Sky Blues flew out early on Sunday morning to Japan. They take on Urawa Red Diamonds in the opening round of the 2016 Asian Champions League. This is followed by an away trip to Melbourne Victory.

It’s a tough week ahead. Squad management will be vital, especially for the older players making the long trip to Japan. It will be important to do well in Japan and away from home, a draw would be a good outcome.

In the A-League, it will be vital to continue along the same lines as their performance against the Wanderers. With Perth Glory hitting form and breathing down the necks of 4th-6th, it’s an important game against Victory that Sydney really needs to win.

Final Words
There was plenty to be happy about for Sydney fans. It was an improved performance although not at the high level they are capable of. That being said, there are enough games left in the season to secure a top six spot by the end of round 27.

Match Notes
Sydney FC 1 (Brosque 36’)
Western Sydney 1 (Vidosic 12’)

Sydney FC:  1. Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 2. Seb RYALL, 5. Matt JURMAN, 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 14. Alex BROSQUE (captain) (8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC 72’), 17. David CARNEY, 18. Matt SIMON (9. Shane SMELTZ 64’), 19. Jacques FATY, 21. Filip HOLOSKO (7. Andrew HOOLE 79’), 23. Rhyan GRANT.

Subs not used: 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 25. Aaron CALVER.

Yellow cards: Jurman 31’, Ryall 78’, Carney 82’.
Red cards: None

Western Sydney Wanderers: 30.Liam REDDY (gk), 3.Scott JAMIESON, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 7.Romeo CASTELEN (16.Jaushua SOTIRIO 61’), 8.DIMAS, 10.Dario VIDOSIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 18.ANDREU, 19.Mark BRIDGE (11.Brendon SANTALAB 85’).

Subs not used: 20.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 15.Kearyn BACCUS.

Yellow cards: Reddy 31’, Topor-Stanley 45’, Sotirio 83’.
Red cards: None.

Referee: Jared Gillett

Stadium: Allianz Stadium
Crowd: 40, 382