Sydney v Adelaide

A-League report by Stephen Webb
Sydney FC v Adelaide United

Sydney FC won the physical and sometimes heated contest between Australia's entrants in the 2007 AFC Champions League, and added some interest to the run towards the A-League finals.

Adelaide still hold second place. But Sydney is now within striking distance and threatening to repeat last season's championship finish.

This game promised a gripping midfield tussle. Adelaide has so many strong midfielders. With the return of David Carney, Steve Corica, Mark Milligan and Terry McFlynn, Sydney's coach Terry Butcher dropped to the bench last week's man of the match two-goal hero Sasho Petrovski and went for one up front, the hard-working David Zdrilic. Petrovski on the bench clearly offered better options.

Zdrilic continued in the manner of great recent performances, nodding down a long clearance from keeper Clint Bolton into the path of David Carney who ran to the goal line and crossed from the right into the arms of Adelaide keeper Robert Bajic.

A long free kick from Adelaide's Ross Aloisi almost paid off with two Adelaide players arriving almost on time at the right post.

And a ball from Angelo Costanzo, chested down by Carl Veart for Fernando, almost produced results.

Sydney looked to have gained some control, pushing the ball around with confidence … perhaps undeserved confidence. Because after only nine minutes Ufuk Talay was caught mucking around in his own half, robbed by Jason Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo worked a one-two with Veart to the top of the Sydney penalty area and set Aloisi up for a shot from the right. Aloisi struck truly.

Sydney, one goal down, lifted their tempo.

Costanzo was looking assured, but Sydney had been stung into action and won a penalty decision when Michael Valkanis appeared to handle a Zdrilic cross. Talay stepped up to make amends for his earlier gaffe and levelled the scores.

Talay, now with his mind focused on the job, hit a sweet ball down the right for Zdrilic who stepped over and crossed too long.

There was some great work by Carney, first keeping possession and then passing to Mark Rudan, breaking up the middle. Rudan found McFlynn who wasted his cross.

Aaron Goulding, once beaten by Carney and reluctant to press in behind him, dropped away to let Carney run at him. And past him. Carney hit a good ball in to Zdrilic who overran, slightly.

In the 22nd minute Kristian Rees was yellow carded for taking out a flying Robbie Middleby. And that set the tone for the match thereon. Six more yellow cards were to come for the visitors.

Fyfe went down in the Adelaide penalty area as the free kick came in. Adelaide, still in trouble, only half cleared to McFlynn who switched to Corica on the left. Corica swept the ball in to Bajic who fended it away into the path of Rudan who joyously side-footed Sydney into the lead.

Corica defied Costanzo in his back and passed to Middleby who won a corner.

Talay, still working hard, hit a couple of lovely chips into the path of Corica down the right.

Sydney fans became increasingly dismayed by Adelaide's hard-hitting tactics.

In the 30th minute Fernando had a chance to equalise, after a good move by Adelaide down the right. But he blasted high.

Nine minutes later Middleby, down Sydney's left, crossed to Corica whose header forced a good save from Bajic.

Goulding, Valkanis, Costanzo and Rees kept up the pressure tight in behind Sydney's attackers. Sydney, also committed, rarely allowed Adelaide to string more than four passes together.

Skipper Rudan again threw himself into the fray, intercepting an Adelaide ball forward and running down the wing before hitting an okay cross.

Half time. Would Adelaide grind Sydney down? Could Sydney preserve a lead?

The second half started with Sydney on the attack. Bajic punched clear a free kick from the right. Then a Carney free kick from the right was almost glanced in.

A long free kick from Adelaide won a corner off Zdrilic's head.

A Richie Alagich cross was cleared poorly by Rudan and Adelaide had another corner, headed wide by Aloisi.

Travis Dodd won another corner from Middleby and Ceccoli. Spagnuolo took it, Valkanis made contact, Bolton eventually held the ball. But a Veart challenge led to a melee in the Sydney goalmouth.

Corica made a break, Carney crossed and Adelaide headed clear.

Veart clipped Iain Fyfe behind play. Fyfe dropped to the ground. Adelaide players thought Fyfe was overre-acting. Veart was replaced by Greg Owens.

In the 69th minute, Alagich on the right in space shot just past Sydney's left post. Bit to the right, he would have scored. Bit to the left and the Adelaide support running in would have had a chance.

A minute later Carney blew a good chance for Sydney, coming in from the right of the Adelaide penalty area. He was on an angle but Bajic did very well to deny him.

Both sides made changes, seeking to secure or alter the result.

Mark Milligan had a good moment against Dodd, Sydney appealed in vain for a free kick for a back pass to Bajic, and Corica missed a sitter.

The game wound down with Carney passing in from the right and Talay cracking a shot just over the Adelaide crossbar.

The final whistle blew while Petrovski was making a long, free run at goal. He might have been feeling frustrated. But everyone else in a blue shirt was jubilant.

Adelaide coach John Kosmina accused Sydney players of milking free kicks. Aloisi accused them of playing too many English-style long balls. Somehow they thought Adelaide had been playing good football.

Perhaps if they had actually focused on the football rather than, as Kosmina acknowledged, been so consumed by the rough and tumble, they might have created a few more chances for themselves.