Monday, February 15, 2010
Rolling Back the Years
Those are the bare facts, but of course the significance is much greater. The whole occasion was, for the first time in four years, unequivocally joyful for the fans. It was a throwback to the A-League's first season...but this time, the crowds were not there to see Dwight Yorke. They were there because their city's team is finally playing consistently good football, and is a genuine contender for top honours once more.
It is a real tribute to the spirit and discipline instilled in the troops by Vitezslav Lavicka that Sydney did not fall to pieces with the departure of Corica. Instead, Karol Kisel, with plenty to play for, adapted excellently to the three-quarter role, and Brendan Gan played a diligent game on the right flank, contributing substantially in defence to make up for his predictable lack of attacking punch.
John Aloisi, for so long an underachiever, chose to produce his best-ever performance for the club when it really mattered. Dropping back just behind the front-line, to allow Alex Brosque to play off the last defender, he finally looked confident and composed. No petulant ranting at the referee from the marquee man this time, he simply got on with the job.
The football was not always a pleasure to behold, especially in the second half. But this game is about defence as much as attack, and Sydney kept their shape and their heads impressively as Melbourne began to come forward in numbers towards the close.
Carlos Hernandez? Lavicka wasn't going to alter his system in order to man-mark him. Instead, Sydney played pass-the-parcel with the stocky playmaker, double-teaming him whenever possible, and stifled him very effectively. Nik Mrdja? Apart from a couple of dangerous moments at the start and that deflected shot that hit the post in the second period, he did very little. I felt that starting him was a mistake on Ernie Merrick's part; he was clearly going to cop plenty from the fans, and Mrdja has been known to show some frailty in such situations.
In fact, Melbourne never looked comfortable with their makeshift system, and Tom Pondeljak and Grant Brebner were often to be found dwelling uncertainly on the ball in midfield, unaware of whose run to connect with. Sydney, by contrast, shuttled the ball through the midfield smoothly for the most part, even when their link-man was replaced.
Sydney FC are back in business, after the mismanagement and on-field mediocrity of the Lowy years. And it's no longer just about the Bling.
What's the best way to reach you - I have something I want to share and its not spam (I promised).