Thursday, April 19, 2007


Sydney FC On Trial

Branko Culina’s side continued their series of trial games against state league sides last night, with an unconvincing 2-1 win over Bankstown Lions.

Bankstown are a fit, combative side with plenty of quality players (including a fair few NSL veterans). They held their own in the first half, despite conceding a dismally soft goal, and largely dominated the second, with Nahuel Arrarte running the show in midfield and Shane Webb and Steve Liavas posing a constant threat down the flanks.

It is to Sydney’s credit that they managed to win despite the excellent opposition they faced; in this, they owed a great deal to their outstanding young back-up ’keeper, Dean Bouzanis.

Bouzanis, only 16 years old, was signed by Liverpool earlier this year, but is as yet ineligible to play for them due to his youth and nationality. Sydney FC have acquired him on loan until the end of the year, and he may well see some first-team action if he can maintain his current form.

He made two excellent saves, including a tremendous leap and tip-over from a fierce Robert Mileski shot in the second half. In the first half, his handling from the many set-pieces that Bankstown received was exceptional.

If he has a weakness, it appears to be his distribution; he was also a little hesitant to come for the ball at set-pieces in the second half. Yet these are relatively small criticisms; for his age, he is extraordinarily good.

I call myself the football tragic rather than the football prophet for good reason; the two players whom I tipped to make an impression as replacements both had indifferent evenings. Adam Casey did indeed start on the right wing, but got little change out of Bankstown’s well-marshalled defence; Shane Webb, their speedy left wing-back, was primarily responsible for this.

On the other flank, Nick Tsattalios played at left-back, and although he combined very well with Alex Brosque (who had a fine game) in attack, his inexperience was shown up at times by the wily Steve Liavas, another of Bankstown’s more impressive players. Tsattalios's positioning and decision-making still need a good deal of work (not that, at 17 years of age, he has any shortage of time for that).

Sydney FC, in fact, have a problem on both sides of defence. Robbie Middleby still looks somewhat uncomfortable at right-back, while the lack of cover at left-back is obvious. Two overseas triallists were given a try in the full-back roles in the second half, but neither looked particularly convincing.

In another change to the starting line-up, Culina gave Luka Glavas his first start in a Sydney shirt, in the lone striker role usually occupied by David Zdrilic. It was not a success; Glavas confirmed that he is ineffective playing with his back to goal, and his physical frailty was made starkly apparent by the strong, rugged Bankstown defenders, who muscled him off the ball with regularity in the first half.

Sydney should see off Persik Kediri at home with little trouble next week, but the usual concerns remain.

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