Two of the some of the A-League’s biggest clubs met at the Sydney Football Stadium last night (15/1/2011) in what can be effectively called Sydney FC’s “do or die” match against their arch rivals Melbourne Victory for a chance to qualify for the finals series.
A very frenetic, sometimes physical match ended with both teams taking a share of the spoils in a pulsating 1 – 1 draw that surely left many Sydney FC fans with their hearts on their sleeves. For all the Sky Blues’ possession and domination in the first half, they were unable to break down a stubborn Melbourne Victory defence. A few reflex saves by Petkovic saved the blushes of what looked like a depleted Victory backline, missing the services of inspirational hardman Kevin Muscat (suspended) and young defender Adrian Leijer.
Great lead up work from Hirofumi Moriyasu saw his shot come back off the post while a great header from Brazilian Bruno Cazarine was saved by the boots of Petkovic, arguably the two best chances of the first half. Melbourne lacked vigour in the opening stages and at times couldn’t keep up and stop the quick feet and creative work of sometime Socceroo and man of the match Nicky Carle.
The second half was a completely different story and the Sky Blues were made to pay for their lack of a finishing touch as on the Victory came out blazing with Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick making a very attacking substitutions in the way of Mate Dugandzic and Matthew Foschini. Carlos Hernandez slipped through the ball for a quick Victory counter as Danny Allsopp made his return the Australian domestic football scene scoring a looping deflected effort past Sydney keeper Liam Reddy.
Melbourne then sparked into life and absolutely dominated the remaning proceedings, as Sydney FC’s touch seemed to have gone passed them. An absolute air-swing by youngster Dimitri Petratos in the final third of the game could have sealed it for the homeside, but it was not until the introduction of right back Shannon Cole that Sydney FC showed some determination to at least snatch a draw. His delightful lead up play and resulting shot just ended up wide of the Victory posts, a bright moment in what was a dull half for the reigning champions.
When it seemed the game was set to end in the Victory’s favour, Finnish import striker and fan favourite Juho “The Surgeon” Mäkelä excellently latched onto Nicky Carle’s shot-come-pass to slot it passed the Victory, grabbing a late equaliser in the first minute of extra time to send the crowd of over 11,000 into raptures.
The pre-game press was dominated by Sydney FC’s CEO Edwin Ludgt coming out and saying that his side will “smash” the victory, but yet even though the Sky Blues managed a late and dramatic draw, it was the Victory who really come out as victors here. They further cemented their top six aspirations and at the same time have crushed their rivals’ very slim chances of ever making the finals series.
So for Sydney was it one point gained or two points crushed? In retrospect, all signs definitely point to the latter.
By Marcel Abboud (Facebook Follower) and Football Correspondant