Sydney v Jets

A-League report by Nick Guoth
Sydney FC v Newcastle United Jets

Sydney FC moved back into second place, only on goal-difference behind front-runners Gold Coast. Yet, it was the tale of penalties that sorted out the two teams. The send off of Tarek Elrich very late in the game only meant Sydney could feel more at ease in defending their lead.

There was a strange sense of 'deja vu' for the opening half, a repeat from last week. Except this time, it was Sydney who were on the plus side. A missed penalty by Matthew Thompson was followed nearly immediately by a lob shot from Mark Bridge. There was no 'God' to intervene this time.

Thompson made up for his miss before the break when he netted following good lead-up work by Kaz Patafta. But Steve Corica closed proceedings putting away a penalty for Sydney and sending his team to equal first on the table.

In the opening period, the Jets came out running and Sydney appeared unable to cope with the choice of a 4-4-2 shape. In both attack and defence Newcastle were just that one step ahead. Thus, it was Newcastle who made headway in the opening period.

The choice by Viteszlav Lavicka to water the pitch before kick-off also nearly had consequences for both teams. First a shot by Sasho Petrovski along the ground was fumbled for a corner kick by Sydney 'keeper Clint Bolton. Then a long ball over the defence by Labinot Haliti also slid on the wet pitch such that it was just out of the reach of Petrovski.

Midway through the period, Stuart Musialik had an eventful two minutes. First he was too slow to control a ball in his box, and after Fabio Vignaroli stole the ball from him, Musialik apparently brought him down for a penalty.

The decision was dubious as it is hard to see that contact was made. Yet the Jets were unable to capitalise when captain Matthew Thompson could not covert, his spot kick stopped by Bolton diving to his left.

Then Musialik grabbed a loose ball following a poor touch by Vignaroli and fed Mark Bridge. The striker, in because of an injury to John Aloisi, took the ball to his right and chipped Ben Kennedy to open the scoring.

The game settled down, yet still being played at a high pace and ten minutes from the break, Sydney should have doubled its lead. Brendan Gan had two good opportunities the first coming from an Adam Casey cross and the second when he reached for a through ball, but could only direct it straight at Kennedy.

Then a minute later, the scores were level. Vignaroli fed Patafta just on the right edge of the box. Kaz nutmegged Brendan Gan before driving towards goal. His shot from just inside the 6-yard box was parried by Bolton but drifted to the far post where Thompson made up for his earlier miss to send the ball high into the net.

Newcastle then pushed for another with chances falling to both Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Song Jin-Hyung, but neither came to fruition. The scores were level at the break.

It took only ten minutes, following the rest, for Sydney to return to the lead. With the ball falling to Alex Brosque, the striker was suddenly one-on-one with Kennedy. Brosque pushed the ball to his left and Kennedy's lunge only found the attacker. The referee, Ben Williams, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Up stepped Corica who showed Thompson how to take a penalty kick sending the ball into the top right, even with Kennedy going the right way.

Both teams had numerous good chances throughout the remainder of the game. For Newcastle, both Vignaroli and Song were causing problems through their skill and ability to win the ball in the midfield, but when given the opportunity could not finish chance, nor could their teammates in front of them.

When Iraqi international, Ali Abbas, arrived on the pitch, no one really knew what to expect from his debut in the A-League. Yet every time he had the ball at his feet, he dazzled the crowd with his close skills and sent in many teasing crosses only to see each wasted. There is little doubt he will be starting next week.

Sydney were also not without their opportunities, the best falling to substitute Antony Golec after Newcastle substitute Angelo Costanzo slipped at an inopportune moment and Golec found himself facing only Kennedy. Unlike the penalty, the keeper did very well cleanly winning the ball.

As Newcastle were attempting to find the equaliser, they were dealt a blow only minutes from the end when Tarek Elrich was ejected from the game for a high-footed tackle. The replays show the decision was close, but with the studs showing and contact on Byun Sung-Hwan, Elrich was sent to the showers. This, after 34 games, was the very first direct send off for the 2009-10 season.

The two coaches had differing opinions of the game. For Lavicka he was proud of his team stating "the players showed strong character" during the match. And, although they were missing a few through injury and international duty the players "showed fighting spirit" and did well.

Branko Culina, for Newcastle, lamented the result, but not the way his team played. "It is a disappointing result - we gifted them the win. As far as football is concerned I thought we played some good stuff and at the end of the day we played against a team that deserved to be beaten."

Culina offered no excuses. "We did not take our opportunities and at critical times we let ourselves down. I feel for them because they deserve better."