Saturday, November 29, 2008

From woeful to wonderful, the two sides of Sydney

A-League round 13 analysis, SFC 1 v QR 1

Tony Tannous
Sydney Football Stadium

FOR just over an hour of last night’s clash at a wet SFS, it looked like Sydney’s season was spiralling out of control in a hurry, from worrying, to bad, to alarming poor.

Nothing was working. The diamond midfield formation, which saw Mitchell Prentice plonked out of position on the right (much as Stuart Musialik had been placed out of position on the left last week), meant that the play was far too narrow.

Shannon Cole, a neat technician, but not blessed with the greatest pace, and still learning the art of defending, was being given a working over by the quick youngsters, Minniecon and Zullo, taking turns. All the while he was afforded little protection by his nearest central defender, the experienced Iain Fyfe, while Prentice wasn’t tracking back.

Queensland were stretching Sydney through their two youngsters, and asking the likes of Miller and McKay to bomb-on into the box and exploit the space.

Sydney were pinned back, and static in the all the thirds. When they did get the ball, their use of it was terrible, and three of their biggest names were the most culpable, Corica, Aloisi and Musialik.

There was the odd sign, like when Bridge flicked in Aloisi, who should have shot earlier, but for the most part it was tentative, insipid stuff, and the Sydney fans let their team know all about it at the break, booing their side off.

On a night when Sydney United (formerly Sydney Croatia) were celebrating their 50th anniversary by including the likes of Manis Lamond, Velemir Kupresak and Zarko Odzakov in their all-time team, one of their greats Tony Popovic was being honoured at the SFS with a guard of honour for his retirement, only 8,500 or so fans on hand, a youth league game played beforehand, and the boos reverberating at half time in the main affair, the memories of the NSL were everywhere. The only things missing were the souvlaki and cevapi stalls.

In any case, Sydney’s confidence had clearly taken a battering from a run which had seen them muster only two wins in nine games, a set of results that saw the back of the club’s previous manager, another from the aforementioned Edensor Park outfit (incidentally, Culina was named the coach of the Sydney United all-time team).

Asked about the obvious lack of confidence on display in the opening hour, Kosmina blamed the press; “Of course it’s partly confidence. When the players pick up the paper every day and you blokes are bagging the shit out of them, what do you expect?”

It’s true, Sydney had been subjected to a barrage of criticism of late, part of it for the substance of their on field performances, but most of it for the resultant reactions from some players, and especially the manager.

After one recent draw with the Mariners, when his side had let a three goal lead disappear in the second half, Kosmina lashed out, first hammering Simon Hill on air, then venting more frustration at a writer.

The football press weren’t impressed. Craig Foster led the defence a couple of days later on The World Game. Jesse Fink followed his lead a few days later.

This scribe, back-of-the-net alumni, was among the many football writers not amused. After all, back-of-the-net is a website which has been covering the game for the past part of a decade, and is run by a band of dedicated football lovers, the likes of Chris Dunkerley, Paul Goodwin and Nick Guoth, who devote countless hours to the game they love, reporting on all the matches, big and small, and asking for little in return.

The criticism of the manager and players was largely deserved, regardless of the pressure everyone at the club is under and fact FC had numerous players injured or suspended, and many others on the way out.

In any case, Kosmina was in a more upbeat mood this time around, and it had much to do with a turn-around in the final half-hour, which was sparked by a scrappy Corica equaliser.

After that, a bit of confidence restored and the game suddenly flowing their way after the belated introduction of Brosque, and some natural width restored to the shape through the forward promptings of Middleby down the left and Cole down the right, FC were much more vibrant, a shadow the team which has been so listless earlier.

Bridge struck the crossbar, Corica got on the end of a wonderful Cole cross before having another effort cleared off the line by Mitch Nichols, and Aloisi so nearly got his toe to one at the back post.

It could have been more than a point, which in truth would have been harsh on a Roar side that had controlled the opening hour and had a golden chance of their own late, when Nichols got on the end of more delightful work from Zullo.

Afterwards, keen to focus on the positives, Kosmina and Aloisi said they were happy with the first half, and used the boos as motivation. At least the hosts stopped the sulking in the second period and showed they’re up for the challenge, an attitude that has been lacking of late.

While the point sent Sydney one spot down, into sixth (Wellington’s win over the leaders sent them above FC), on the evidence of the last half hour their season isn’t over by any stretch, but they will need to produce more of the same and less of what we saw in the opening hour.


MANAGED to catch my first full youth league game prior this match, and overall I thought it was a very decent affair, with some good technique, sound tactics and good organisation.

The competition leaders, Sydney, running away with it (3-0 it finished), weren’t always brilliant, but they clearly have a very deep squad, and had few, if any, weaknesses compared to second placed Queensland, who were weak defensively.

Sydney's defence is very well organised, and catching the eye was the tall central defender Zach Cairncross, a good reader of the game. Impressing in central midfield was the combative Sam Munro, while in front of him was the mobile Chris Payne. Playing in behind Sean Rooney, most good things went through Payne.

Both sides utilised a 4-2-3-1, and the Roar skipper Adam Sarota, playing in the no. 10 role, in behind the striker, was wonderful to watch. The boy with a Polish background is one to watch, for sure.

Others to impress for Rado Vidosic’s side were and Luke Brattan and sometimes first-teamers Chris Grossman and Ben Griffin.


MEANWHILE, this piece can’t go by without a mention for the wonderful Shane Smeltz winner last night, which will take some beating for goal of the season.

Receiving the ball with his back to goal about 30 metres out, with Michael Thwaite applying plenty of heat from behind, he flicked the ball by him, settled, used Fred’s run as a decoy and shaped it around Theoklitos into the top corner. Magnificent.

Mark it down not for the finish, which was masterful itself, but for the sublime first touch, which not only got him around and past Thwaite, but had him bearing down on goal in a flash. Stunning stuff.


Anonymous Ed said...

Tony, that crowd has got to be a worry, bad weather I guess - but who does not want to see Charlie Miller play? ;)

Was a great game to watch loved the first half and panicked the entire second half!

Mon. Dec. 01, 11:24:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks for your comment Ed. The crowds in Syd and beyond are a concern, no doubt, but Ive gotta say, I pre-empted it to an extent in my season preview.

That prediction was based as much on what I'd seen in other sports and the broader economy - ie. in tough times how do you provide an incentive for people to part with their hard earned, esp. when it's far too expensive in my opinion - as on the vibes I'd been picking up around the league.

And last year I wrote that Syd FC were in danager of shooting themselves by Lowy's insistence on using it as a Sydney City old-boys club with the likes of Kememny and Kosmina. Turned many people off. Indeed, I warmed that crowds would continue to stay away.

And,if Charlie Miller is the greatest thing this league has to offer (and he's not in my opinion), then that says it all really. He's done some good things, but he's not gonna make people flock i'm afraid.

Wed. Dec. 03, 06:00:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Just further on Sydneys poor crowd last friday, there was a massive down-pour about 5.30-6pm, which forced the postponment of the youth league game for 22 mins, only 1min after kick-off.

I was already in the stadium, but theres no doubt a storm 2 hours before kick-off would have forced many to stay at home and watch fox. the other massive issue around the sfs is the traffic

Wed. Dec. 03, 06:16:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous Ed said...

Brisbane Crowds have been terrible this year as well. We put it down to the results, but its more than that. The marketing for games up here is virtually non-existant. I I were not a committed football head, I'm sure I would have no idea when the Roar played or who played for them (beyond Craig Moore who has made the cover of the Courier Mail - a paper than stubbornly clings to the Soccer terminology).

I dont mind paying to see Charlie (although somehow I recon he should only comand half price as he only ever plays half a game), TBH the players are never going to be the drawcard until the league is marketed well enough that player are considered stars because the they play in the A-League, instead of the League needing to bring in star players to give it some gravitas.

Wed. Dec. 03, 10:16:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don`t mind small crowds as long as the people who do come are passionate about their club, and as long as the clubs live within their means.

there are a stack of lessons in the rise and fall of pro basketball in australia.

i wonder if the clubs are doing enough to reach out to the grassroots soccer community?

sydney loves soccer. loves playing it. the trick is how to get those soccer fans to come to, and care about, sfc.

aka ramblingobsessive

Thu. Dec. 04, 03:07:00 pm AEDT  

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