Sunday, 28 October 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 2-0 WSW (A-League)

Sydney FC continued their derby dominance, with a comfortable 2-0 victory over crosstown rivals Western Sydney.


The Sky Blues got off to a brilliant start, with Adam le Fondre firing past Janjetovic on 4 minutes after the keeper saved his first shot. The Englishman showed real strikers instinct to get into the goal scoring position, after Retre's long shot was blocked by a Wanderers defender, but landed to the feet of le Fondre.

The first half was a fairly even battle, with the Sky Blues edging it only just thanks to that goal from le Fondre.


7 minutes into the second half, captain Alex Brosque doubled the lead for the hosts - converting a typical let footed finish across the keeper - after Ninkovic won the ball from a weak Wanderers pass just inside the box. The skipper celebrated his 200th appearance for the Sky Blues in style - and became the first Sydney player to score up the SCG Cove end.

The Wanderers were seemingly handed a lifeline by Roly Bonevacia - with the Curacao-born midfielder striking an effort in after a cross wasn't cleared by Sydney FC. However, the assistant failed to spot an offside player obstructing play in the buildup, and the much maligned Video Assistant Referee pointed it out to Referee Beath, who overturned the goal.

Western Sydney manager Markus Babbel was sent off for his theatrics inside his technical area, which sparked a bit of a resuscitation in the Red and Black. They won corner after corner for the last 30 minutes, but failed to create a single solid effort, bar one header which was cleared as it headed on goal at pace.

In the 94th minute, Oriol Riera thought he had pulled back a consolation game - but this time there was no need for the VAR as the linesman spotted the offside live.

The Sky Blues bagged an important first win of the season, and first win at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

But what did we learn from the Sydney Derby?

1) le Fondre's edge


The Englishman had a lively game, applying a lot of pressure on the back four and goalkeeper, and constantly making himself available to receive the ball. His game as a striker is different to Bobo's, but his workrate is very similarly high. He was a useful option to pump the ball too, with some decent pace on him and confidence to take on his man. We're looking at a striker who is well and truly in their element.


2) We've missed you, Rhyan

Despite his truly horrendous mullet, we've missed Rhyan Grant. His industrious and lung-busting runs were such a big part of our style of play, and we sorely missed him last season - even with Wilkshire's experience. He makes the needed tackles, is constantly running up and down, and reads the game well. The width he offers the team is so vital. We're lucky to have him back. 

3) World in motion 

There was a serious swagger to the way Sydney played; the passing, the movement, the incisiveness. O'Neill and Ninkovic had very strong games, with both contributing enormously to the team. Ninkovic, who is closing on 33 years old, looked just as bright as 3 years ago. His anticipation and vision is top notch - very few players in the competition's history have been on his level. O'Neill was typical in his workmanlike performance - even when his passes were not amazing he had the right idea in mind. 

4) Setting the ground rules 


One of the contributing factors to Wanderers struggles of the last 3 years has been the home grounds and the bad start to every ground they played at. This was a vital win for the club. First game at a very unfamiliar ground and played no differently than usual and more importantly - got those three points. It cannot be stressed enough how important the first games at each of the three home grounds will be.

5) Get on with the football, farken'.

This is just a simple thing - talk about the football, not the refereeing. We just had a highly entertaining game with two very keen teams fighting out in front of just over 30,000 supporters. Focus on the 90, not the controversy. 


I think Sydney are in a very good place heading into Wednesday's cup final. The loss of Siem de Jong to a minor hamstring injury is a blow, but I have full faith in whoever is picked. 



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Dominant without being superb, Sydney should be very happy with their overall performance and victory. Sydney remains sky blue yet again.


Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Western Sydney Wanderers (0)
MOTM: Brandon O'Neill

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The Loss Of Buhagiar: How To Replace Him

Trent Buhagiar picked up an incredibly unfortunate anterior cruciate ligament injury, which will see the promising youngster out until late 2019. Sydney will sorely miss his pace, and his combination play with Adam le Fondre.

But who should come in as injury replacement? Should it be a foreign player? Should Sydney just promote from within? Winger or striker?





OPTION 1 - INJURY REPLACEMENT

Sydney have utilised the injury replacement spot quite a lot over the years, and with the absence of Andrew Clarke as Head of Conditioning, it's hard to not see them use more. 

I've gone through available free agents, and my own "knowledge" to find potential injury replacement candidates. It is to be noted that the replacement player is on the same wages as the player they are standing in for. My guess of Buhagiar's wage is just above the minimum salary ($50,000).

These, in my opinion are the best possible options to replace him. 

My criteria is:

* Must play as RW, and bonus if competent at striker
* Pacy, slightly headless chicken 
* Played in Asia or Europe

AUSTRALIAN options

* Tahj Minniecon - A-League experience, free agent since beginning of 2018, plays RW. 
* Adam Parkhouse - A-League experience, free agent since end of last season. Plays RW, LW, and RB. 

Those two are in my opinion the only ones that would possibly be signed of the free-agent Australians out there. Not exactly enticing. 

FOREIGN options

I decided in particular to look to Japan for targets, with Steve Corica having played close to 50 times for J.League club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, and assistant Ufuk Talay playing for Avispa Fukuoka. With the J.League running opposite to our season for the most part, I think some of the J.League players listed would be interested in a loan. Whilst I highly doubt any of these would happen, I think the club would be smart to scour the Japanese leagues for players. 

Stats are all acquired from transfermarkt.com and potentially outdated.


KAITO MIYAKE


Miyake is a 21 year old Japanese right winger, currently in the Fortuna Dusseldorf reserve team. He is unlikely to feature in the senior team anytime soon, and is a natural at right wing, with pace. Already in the 2018/19 Regionalliga West (German 4th tier) he has 5 goals, and 1 assist from 11 appearances. A bit outside the box, but would work for the Asian Champions League, and at 21 would likely not demand high wages.


ASAHI MASUYAMA


Currently at Vissel Kobe, alongside Barcelona legend Andreas Iniesta, he is struggling for game time. 7 appearances, and 1 goal for them in the J.League, and 5 appearances in the J.League Cup. Natural at right wing, as well as strong on the left wing, and as an attacking midfielder. 







KEITA TANAKA

The nearly 29 year old right winger Tanaka, has made 13 J2.League appearances this season for Mito Hollyhock. 2 goals, and 1 assist from these appearances. 

RYUJI SUGIMOTO


24 appearances in the J2.League this season for the 25 year old winger, bagging 3 assists. He can also play as a second striker, and left winger - which would be useful for cutting inside on the wings. 








These are the four foreign players I think could do the job well. 3/4 of them have expiring contracts at the end of the calendar year and may be keen to try something new. I'd very much like to see Sydney utilise their +1 spot for the Asian Champions League campaign - which could be a major drawcard to these players. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Adelaide 1-1 Sydney FC (A-League)

The A-League is back, and it returned with a... resounding "y-yeah?".



It was hardly a clash of high quality, with lots of stupid fouls conceded by both teams in the opening 45. Adelaide looked the better of the two sides, but made very few chances.

Jop van der Linden, and Michael Zullo both found themselves in the referee's book for stupid fouls.

Adelaide took the lead late into first half stoppage time, with Scott Galloway finding Andrew Redmayne off his line and buried his long range effort to make it 1-0.

The second half was more of the same, with Adelaide just about dominating a very disjointed and tired looking Sydney outfit. Rhyan Grant and Joshua Brilliante then both were booked in quick succession for once again, unnecessary fouls.

Sydney didn't seem to have an effective game plan, but counted their lucky stars when Ninkovic broke into the box and played the ball square to Adam le Fondre for a tap-in for 1-1.

A very, very, very lucky point for a Sky Blues side that looked sleepy and slow.

But what did we learn from tonight's match?


1) Give Alfie time, he will score 

The Englishman marked his debut with a goal, much like his predecessor Bobo did back in 2016/17. He had very very few touches during the 90 minutes but made it count when he needed to. He is a class finisher and managed to score in a match the team looked like could serve up bugger all to him. 

2) Back four blues

Sydney's back four looked completely out of tune with each other, and the midfield in front of them. Jop was often caught out of position, Wilkinson a bit stationary, Grant a bit too slow, and Zullo misplacing an awful lot of passes.


3) Who to partner le Fondre?


Brosque was mostly invisible during the match, contributing a couple of fouls and winning the odd one or two. His replacement Charlie Lokolingoy looked much more lively and found himself on the ball much more than Brosque did. Or perhaps a combo of ALF and Siem de Jong? The Dutchman played as a second striker for the majority of his time in the Netherlands, and it would suit him much more than playing on the right wing where he looked incredibly lost. 

4) What's the go with the game plan? 


Brilliante and O'Neill were played out of the match and were unable to do their typical pivoting runs and passes, which contributed to Sydney created nearly no chances.

The game plan was a mystery to me, with a lot of long balls that went straight to nobody in particular. On the ground, it was passing out of the back until someone misplaced a pass...and then commit a stupid foul. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

The absence of Buhagiar for this season will be massive, with no pace to compliment le Fondre's movements off the ball. 


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It wasn't pretty, it wasn't good, but there's 26 games to go. Give them time.

FINAL SCORE: Sydney FC (1) drew with Adelaide United (1)
MOTM: Adam le Fondre

Sunday, 7 October 2018

MATCH REVIEW: WSW 0-3 Sydney FC (FFA Cup)

Sydney FC progressed to a third successive FFA Cup final last night, after a comprehensive 3-0 victory over their crosstown rivals.



Sydney FC had Andrew Redmayne to thank for keeping them in the game before half time, with several crucial saves from a very set piece skilled Wanderers side. Western Sydney looked constantly dangerous from set pieces during the match, with some beautifully delivered corners and troublesome free-kicks.

Rhyan Grant made a crucial clearance to deny Oriel Riera a tap-in early on in the game. The Wanderers looked like a decent side going forward in the first half but always a few seconds too slow whenever on the ball.

Sydney's Josh Brilliante did his best to hand Wanderers opportunities, with a very poor first half filled with no look passes straight to their midfielders. He gradually got more into the game, but had at least 5 cheap turnovers.

Sydney made it the end of the first half without ever really threatening their crosstown rivals. Their best chance came from an Adam le Fondre long range effort, which flew over the bar.

The second half however, was a different story.

Siem de Jong capitalised on a poor header from Tarek Elrich to set up Trent Buhagiar in a one-on-one with Wanderers keeper Daniel Nizic - with the Sydney youngster toe poking past the keeper to make it 1-0.

Socceroo Josh Risdon had a golden opportunity to equalise for Western Sydney, but was denied by a strong Redmayne save.



The Wanderers then paid the price for their lack of chances created, with Siem de Jong burying a free-kick from outside the box to double the Sky Blues' advantage.

Englishman Adam le Fondre then won himself a penalty, after being tripped up by Tarek Elrich. He slammed home the resulting penalty, securing passage to the cup final for Sydney FC.

But what did we learn from last nights fixture?

1) Style of football


It seems that Corica will be having Sydney play a slightly tweaked version of what has been played during recent years. Arnold's Sydney side were criticised often for their lack of directness, and this version seems to be a mixture of the tiki-taka football and a bit of route one hoofball. Surprisingly, it seemed to really work in the second half. Siem de Jong was a useful aerial presence and was very capable of winning the aerial duels. Le Fondre went up for nearly every possible header, and espite not being the tallest player, still won his fair share of duels. 

2) Rectangular Stadium

How good was it to finally play another derby at a rectangular stadium? After previous 2 years of ANZ "away" derbies it was refreshing to watch the game from the stands in a proper football stadium. The Cove generated a lot of noise, and to me this is in part due to the stadium. 

3) Fullback joy

Both Zullo and Grant had very solid games last night, with much better combination play with their wingers. Grant's workrate was stunning, and he made a return to his bombarding runs down the wing of 2016/17. 

4) ALF + Trent


Already Trent and Alfie look to be a perfect match. An experienced striker partnering up with a pacy hitman has caused a lot of issues for teams. The experience ALF brings to the attack proved valuable. Constantly looking to get involved, and always positive in his passing game. Buhagiar seems to look very comfortable in this set-up, which looks much more like a traditional 4-4-2 than a 4-2-3-1 played under Arnold

5) Crucial Keeping

Redmayne had one of his best performances for Sydney FC last night, dealing with the shots and crosses thrown at him with comfort and confidence. With a CB combo in front of him still gelling, he really stepped up to the occasion to put Sydney into the final. It was always going to be hard to follow up on Vukovic's season at Sydney - but I feel like Redmayne is really coming into his own at the club.


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FINAL SCORE: Sydney FC (3) def. Western Sydney (0)
MOTM: Andrew Redmayne