Friday, February 15, 2008
Sydney FC: Season Review, Part 3
For a little while after the disappointing draw in Melbourne, Sydney FC's season looked headed for a dreary finale. Sydney were a little lucky to scrape a draw the following week in Wellington; although they pulled themselves up by the bootstraps in the second half and put the Wellington goal under constant pressure, they found the Kiwi 'keeper Glen Moss in tremendous form. It eventually took a slick piece of opportunism from Michael Bridges in the box to draw the foul which gave Sydney their penalty and equalizing goal; at that stage - there would be cause to remember this - John Kosmina's side were down to ten men, after Tony Popovic had foolishly gotten himself sent off.
A dull home draw against Queensland the following week, with Bridges' form dipping all the time and Juninho still unable to start, saw spirits drop among the fans. Despite the bright beginning to the Kosmina era, it looked to be a case of same old, same old.
Then the drama began.
First there was the last-minute winner against Newcastle, again following a Sydney send-off. An interesting theme that ran through Sydney's season was how well they showed their mettle whenever a numerical imbalance ensued on the field; with ten against eleven, they picked off Newcastle and scrambled a draw against Wellington, and with eleven against ten...well, read on.
An important sidelight of Sydney's well-crafted winner against the Jets was the crucial role played in the goal by the returning Terry McFlynn. The Irish midfielder, after a blunt beginning to the season, was to enjoy his best run of form in his three years at the club towards the end of the 2007/08 campaign.
It was back down to earth again with the home loss to Perth, in which Mark Milligan and Alex Brosque had horror games (perhaps due to stage fright, with Pim Verbeek in the stands) and James Downey's late, penalty-winning surge showed up Sydney's lack of pace in defence.
Then this. There's little to be said about that extraordinary, surreal evening that hasn't been said already, but the confidence gained by some of the goalscorers that night - notably Adam Biddle, Brendan Santalab and Terry McFlynn - was vital in the context of Sydney's season. Biddle had been thrown directly into the fray in Round 1, and faltered badly; now, after a few promising substitute appearances, he was starting to gain confidence. Santalab was to score one of the goals of the season the following week, and McFlynn was fast becoming a bulwark in midfield.
Even an early Adelaide goal couldn't dent Sydney's spirits after Christmas; once again, Alex Brosque used his pace to connect with a long ball out of defence, and once again an opposition player was sent off as a direct result. Sydney proved as effective in 11 v. 10 situations as they had with 10 v. 11, and went on to win 3-1; a place in the top two was suddenly within reach.
And, in the end, they came mighty close. More on that anon.