Mariners v Sydney

Cup report by Paul Green
Central Coast Mariners v Sydney FC

They came to see Dwight Yorke - and judging by the over-the-top standing ovation afforded the Trinidad and Tobago international striker they were not disappointed - but it was his partner up front, former Wollongong Wolves and Bankstown City striker, Saso Petrovski, who stole the show in Sydney FC's first public outing at Aussie Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night.

A low key pre-season competition match provided a high quality spectacle for the 8,000 plus who attended the game, many of whom had come thanks to complimentary tickets provided by the Sydney Morning Herald, among others.

Yorke showed some dazzling touches, which drew quick, spontaneous applause and he did a few party tricks too.

It was obvious that the lumbering and old fashioned Kiwi team had problems containing the larger-than-life character whenever he got near the ball.

Yorke was the consummate professional and super confident. He put away a penalty without blinking an eye and did it with absolute panache.

He was called upon to convert the spot kick after Petrovski had proven too slippery for the New Zealand defence and panicked their keeper Danny Milosevic into clattering into the Sydney FC man in the 24th minute.

Referee Ben Williams pointed to the spot, immediately and up stepped Yorke, despatching the ball low to the keeper's right and just inside the post, with a precision that was admirable.

So brilliantly was the penalty taken that a great effort by Milosevic to make the save was overshadowed by the excellent delivery by the marquee player.

After that excitement Petrovski became more and more a danger to the Kiwis and could have had quite a number of goals but in the end had to settle for just two.

The first came moments before the break, the second in the 83rd minute.

Both were class strikes and demonstrated that even when without Australian international, David Zdrilic, the Sydney team will be an imposing force this coming season.

The late goal the visitors scored was no more than consolation and while they were pressing for a second goal, after that, a 3-2 scoreline would certainly have flattered them.

It was obviously a great workout for the Kiwis who are unlikely to face a better opponent in this coming campaign and will take heart for at least hanging in there for most of the game.

Coach John Adshead knew it too.

"The performance was interesting," he reflected. "We tried to be competitive but the gap in quality between the two sides was apparent and we have bit of sorting out to do now.

He took some positives from the game. "Our front men, Simon Yeo and Sean Devine, are two useful players and once we can get the ball up to them a bit more we should do well.

Captain Danny Hay was having his first outing and spoke highly of his opponents. "Yorke was world class and very quick. The Sydney players were very fit and it was hard to get the ball off them once they had it.

Sydney FC were clearly the fitter and better prepared team but the Kiwis gave the opposing defenders plenty to think about, especially in the opening stages.

Home keeper Clint Bolton was a little hesitant at times and had to rely on his defence to tidy up a few times.

It needed a clearance from the goalmouth by Alvin Ceccoli to deny Devine who tried to get a touch on a corner from the right in the 13th minute when Bolton was unable to claim the ball quickly.

The Kiwis' defence was also at sixes-and-sevens a number of times as they struggled to cope with the speed and venom of Robbie Middleby on the left and Darren Carney on the right.

Some cumbersome challenges from Hay and defensive partner Ronnie Bull irked the crowd who wanted to see more from Yorke; but the experienced striker was there more to act as the decoy for Petrovski than anything and it paid off.

Andrew Packer's first time cross from the right, in first half stoppage time, turned a useful 1-0 lead into a far more advantageous 2-0, when a nice flick on by Carney in the centre saw the ball reach Petrovski at the far post.

His firm header, just inside the left post, was as well placed as Yorke's earlier penalty had been and the quality of both goals had the stamp of real class about them.

The entire first half produced some sizzling football befitting of an A League game and showed the fans what they had been missing all these months.

Yeo had driven across the face of the goal for the Knights in the 38th and Devine had missed the target by a narrow margin, too, in the 21st so it was by no means one way traffic.

The second half was nowhere near as thrilling as both teams began to tire, especially the New Zealanders who had worked hard to stay in the game.

"We got a goal late in the game and I thought before we scored that if we did score I'd take that" admitted Adshead.

That 83rd minute strike came after Petrovski had made it 3-0 in the 72nd.

A great diagonal pass from Terry McFlynn found Petrovski, wide on the edge of the area and a superb volley, low into the bottom left corner of the net, gave the crowd more to cheer about.

The Kiwis' goal came from a corner by Noah Hickey, on the left. Bolton could barely get a finger on the ball when it arrived at the near post and a weak clearance saw the ball land in front of Steve Fitzsimmons who steadied himself nicely before blasting the ball just under the crossbar.

It was a well taken goal as all the goals in this taster of a match had been.

Yorke was happy with things too.

"It was a fantastic performance by the team," he said.

"The result was more important than my own performance but we got a good understanding going up front and I was very pleased with how that went."

The Sydney FC players were well received by their new fans and if there was anything about the game to complain about it would be the late kick off time and the lack of a programme.

Sleeping children were being carried out well before the end and low key, minimal publicity is all very well but first time visitors would still like to know a little about what is going on, surely? Those of us who follow the game closely like to know who is playing, at least and newcomers might like to know too.