Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Sydney FC: Season Review, Part 2
Rounds 7-12 (the changeover)
Coming off the back of two wins, the former unconvincing, the latter rather more so, great things were expected of Branko Culina's men in the home game against Melbourne. Covites with long memories could point to the stirring Round 7 win over Adelaide in the first A-League season, which also followed two unexpected victories after a slow start.
It was not to be. And little blame attached to Culina; instead, the game turned on a dreadful challenge by Steve Corica - always one of Sydney's most effective and incisive players - in the 24th minute. Down to ten men, and although Sydney fought back well in the second half and even regained the initiative to some extent, a well-worked Melbourne goal saw them crash to a third home defeat.
With the injuries piling up, there followed a quite horrendous performance against Perth. Thanks to some commendable fighting spirit and a schoolboy error from Anthony Danze, Sydney managed to snatch a late equalizer in a game they should have lost embarrassingly. A foundering David Zdrilic was bizarrely employed at right-back, and it was becoming clearer than ever that Sydney's off-season recruitment had been not only poor, but inappropriate.
With another home loss to Adelaide in Round 10, Culina's time was up. There was good reason to feel sorry for him, given that he had been forced to tinker with his first team constantly, but one felt that ultimately he was being punished for his transfer dealings prior to the season rather than any lack of tactical acumen during it.
In an unfortunate side-effect, assistant coach Aytek Genc was removed as well. He must have been wishing he'd stayed at Blacktown City, where he had achieved tremendous success and was almost universally respected.
John Kosmina arrived at the same time as ex-Leeds striker Michael Bridges, and predictably the team lifted. The Round 10 game against the eventual premiers, the Central Coast, was an enjoyable one; Bridges offered shrewdness and a sure touch up front, and more importantly he looked positive and eager from day one. Alex Brosque revelled in the extra space afforded him by the presence of Bridges, and scored two fine goals.
The Englishman scored the winner himself against Newcastle the following week. The results were starting to come, and the performance at Energy Australia was a much improved one, but the cracks were still clearly visible.
They started to reappear in earnest in the boring 0-0 draw against a flaccid Melbourne at Telstra Dome. This time Bridges was anonymous, and the absence of Juninho, whose shoulder troubles had flared up again, robbed the side of creativity. The Brazilian did come on after 70 minutes, and immediately posed Melbourne problems, but Kosmina was clearly unconvinced that "the little feller" could get through 90 minutes at that point...and he may well have been right.
Nevertheless, there were positives: Tony Popovic was finally looking like a former Socceroo rather than a shaky, ponderous state-leaguer, and Clint Bolton was looking the part in goal once more.
The second half of the season was to provide drama aplenty.
What did happen to Michael Bridges? Have I heard he is being picked up somewhere? Perhaps Gold Coast?