Sunday, 30 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 2-1 Brisbane Roar (A-League)

Sydney scraped out a win against Brisbane Roar in their last hit-out of the calendar year, thanks to a brace from Adam le Fondre and penalty heroics from Andrew Redmayne.

Sydney took the lead in the opening 15 minutes, after a long diagonal ball from Michael Zullo found the head of Adam le Fondre, who looped his header over Roar keeper Jamie Young.

The home side looked scrappy after that goal, and continued miscommunication between Aaron Calver and Alex Wilkinson opened up many opportunities for Roar, who eventually equalised late in the first half, after a cutback was not dealt with. McKay "chested" the ball into the net, however there were appeals for handball.

The second half Sydney started well, with a lot more dynamism down the left flank, which conjured up the second goal. Brandon O'Neill played a one-two with Siem de Jong and put a low cross into the box which le Fondre dragged into the net.

Sydney were the architects of their own downfall again, with Aaron Calver making a clumsy challenge on Adam Taggart inside the box to concede a penalty in the 81st minute. Four minutes later, the penalty was finally taken - but Andrew Redmayne pulled off a great save from the spot to deny Taggart - and secure the Sky Blues all three points.

But what did we learn from it all?

1) Pedestrian at best

Sydney opened both halves with some good football, dynamic wing play, and strong build-up around the box - but each half that evaporated after the first 20 minutes. They lacked a lot of decision making and direction after Siem de Jong came off - he really orchestrated the attacking play and worked very hard on and off the ball. The slow passing around the back 4 is more likely to cause problems in our own half rather than build up to anything in the opposition half - a lot of misplaced or heavy/light passes which caused unnecessary stress. 

2) Ninkslowvic

Ninkovic had one of the worst games I can remember him having - a lot of cheap giveaways, very slow both on and off the ball, and wasn't on the same wavelength as his teammates. I counted 4 times Ninkovic gave the ball away and gave Roar a clear counterattacking opportunity. It was uncharacteristic of him, too - typically even when he's not doing great he's causing the opposition problems. 

3) Too slow

Despite the enormous leadership capacities Alex Wilkinson shows overall, he hasn't been good enough this season. Too many times he's struggled to keep up with the pace of the game, and too often in no mans land when goals have been conceded. Whilst I think he and Calver are well equipped to deal with Perth Glory, they aren't suited to pacy #9s. Several times tonight he ignored the calls of his keeper to leave the ball for him, and went for it anyway - as well as being too quiet with Calver. 

4) Always rely on Alfie

le Fondre is arguably the best striker Sydney have had - or at least the most complete striker we've had. Always looking to get on the ball, always chasing defenders, and constantly well positioned. The fact he's scored 9 goals in the league already this season, despite being in a team much weaker than that of Bobo's time is incredible. It's pleasing to have him up front - he's possibly the best striker in the league at the moment. 

Full player ratings

Whilst unimpressive and nervy, Sydney showed the grit necessary to grind out a result. It's comforting to finally have a win at Kogarah this season. 

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Brisbane Roar (1)
MOTM: Andrew Redmayne & Adam le Fondre

Saturday, 22 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Perth Glory 1-2 Sydney FC (A-League)

Sydney proved they could do it on a hot summer's night in Perth, with one of their best performances this season.

The Sky Blues took the lead in the opening 20 minutes, with a Brandon O'Neill corner swung out to Milos Ninkovic who headed the ball into the danger area, before the ball was scuffled from Calver to le Fondre for the Englishman to strike home. Sydney scored their fourth successive goal off a corner.

Andrew Redmayne produced a top quality save from point blank range to deny Andy Keogh a certain equaliser in the 30th minute.

Sydney went into the break with that one goal lead, and frustrated the hosts throughout the match.

In the 85th minute, Danny de Silva wrapped up the 3 points just in time for Christmas. The attacking midfielder got onto the end of a clever pass from Ninkovic, danced past a defender, then slotted his finish past Reddy in goal.

There would still be drama yet to come, with Ikonomidis netting from a scrappy Perth corner in the 90th minute after the Sydney defence were caught napping at the set piece.

Glory thought they had equalised in the 93rd minute, only for the referee to blow the whistle for a clear foul on Andrew Redmayne.

Unlucky to not pick up a clean sheet, but a brilliant performance from Sydney away from home at a tough ground.

But what did we learn from the match?

1) Calver the revelator?

Aaron Calver started alongside Alex Wilkinson in the heart of defence and didn't put a foot wrong. The 22 year old looked comfortable on the ball, and was sensible with his passes - never trying to be too ambitious and instead sticking to the game plan. It's a wonder why he wasn't starting to begin with - especially with how well he did to keep Keogh in his pocket. 

2) de Jong getting better

Siem de Jong finished another strong 60 minute spell for Sydney FC, with the Dutchman doing a great job defensively in tough conditions. He went deep to get the ball, helped Grant out a lot on the wing, and was always making himself available. Very encouraging signs as he continues his return from injury. 

3) Effective game plan

It was clear from early on that Steve Corica had set up his team in a specific way to counter Perth - more so than any other side to face Perth had. The team pressed Glory on the ball, but allowed them a lot of time on the ball and frustrated them when they got to the final third. Brosque lead from the front with a lot of energy to press their 3 centrehalves. le Fondre too did very well holding up the ball when he got it, and offered a lot to the players around him. 

4) Who will replace Grant?

Congratulations to Rhyan Grant on his 10 years service with the club, and also for his call-up to Graham Arnold's Socceroos squad for the Asian Cup. This is unfortunate for Sydney, as Grant has been very instrumental to their style. I think the right back spot will be hotly contested between Brilliante and Retre - both who have done a solid job there in the past. Personally I'd prefer Brilliante as Retre looks much better in the middle of the pitch, in more attacking areas. These are positive headaches for Corica as they enter January. 

Full player ratings

A very impressive victory for Sydney, and it's clear the lads are gaining confidence each week and improving with de Jong and Ninkovic both available. The back four performed admirably, as did the big man in goal. The Sky Blues have a week until their next match, home at Jubilee to Roar. 

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Perth Glory (1)
MOTM: Milos Ninkovic

Friday, 21 December 2018

An Ode To Brosque

When Graham Arnold took over Sydney FC in 2014, he had to change a "toxic" culture, establish new leaders, and a new club identity.

The captaincy was vacant following the retirements of Alessandro Del Piero and Terry McFlynn. Sasa Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic were expected take up the armband. Brosque had just returned from a 3 year spell abroad, playing in Japan and the United Arab Emirates. He was a fan favourite in his first spell with Sydney FC, and before he left was named as a vice captain alongside Stuart Musialik. Brosque was a fairly quiet but well spoken player, and seemed more like the type to support a leader than a leader himself- but Arnold saw something in the striker. A bit of fan service, and a bit of long term planning from the manager.

 Since taking up the armband in 2014, Brosque helped spark the revolution of Sydney FC. In a play style which encourages goal scoring and flowing attacking football it was a great move to make a forward the captain. Leading from the front is what Brosque did. In a 4-2-3-1 system, he acted as somewhere between a false 9 and an attacking midfielder. In his first season back in Australia, he scored 9 goals as Sydney finished runners up in the season. Brosque wasn’t comfortable immediately with the armband and it was something he had to grow into. 

In 2015/16, Brosque sustained a bad hamstring injury which left him out of the majority of the Asian Champions League matches as well as the remaining A-League season. Matt Jurman, Seb Ryall, and Shane Smeltz all took up the armband in his absence with mixed results. Jurman was a no-nonsense centrehalf and strong leader- but wasn’t what that Sydney side were lacking - they needed a player to usher in the attacking mentality.

 In 2016/17 preseason, Brosque had mostly recovered from his hamstring injury. By this point, he had undergone a massive change both psychologically and physically. He now adorned a thick bush ranger Beard (now synonymous with him) and had taken a much more confident persona in the media and seemed much more confident with himself. He set the pace for the players around him and brought the best out of them. 

The captain scored 11 goals - a personal record - in 2016/17. In a side which dominated possession, and pressed high up the pitch, he played a vital role in setting example. The 2017 Grand Final saw him take the first penalty in the shoot-out, once again setting example and leading his team. He buried his penalty and made sure Sydney were on the front foot.

I could go on telling you about how vital he is to the team but I think when he retires will be when we truly appreciate how important he was. Replacing Brosque as captain will be an incredibly hard task and I'm not sure we'll ever have a captain quite as influential as him. 

Currently, he is closing in on 250 appearances all-time for Sydney - making him the highest capped Sydney FC player. That record won't be beaten for a long, long time. Rhyan Grant is the second highest capped currently with the club with close to 180 appearances. By the end of this season, we'll likely see Brosque hit 270.

He's heralded the most successful period this club is likely to ever have, and that cannot be understated. Since rejoining the club, he's lead the team to 4 trophies in 5 years. It cannot be stressed enough how important he is to this team - regardless of if he's starting or on the bench.


Thank you for reading this rather rambley post. I'd like to thank everyone who has donated to my ko-fi page which which helps me produce content, and produce more diverse content and pay for this website. 

Follow me on twitter at @VuvuZuvela 

Sunday, 16 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: WSW 1-3 Sydney FC (A-League)

A brainsnap from Vedran Janjetovic sent Sydney FC to yet another derby delight, as the Sky Blues made it 5 straight wins against Wanderers.

The match was delayed for close to an hour due to strong rain, with kick-off not too far off being 9pm.

The game did not start well at all for the Sky Blues yet again, with Oriol Riera scoring for Wanderers after a mix of goalkeeping error and poor defending allowed the Spaniard to get a simple tap-in off a deep free-kick.

Sydney looked second best for the opening half hour, barely able to string passes together. Janjetovic had other plans though - after failing to get the ball off le Fondre outside the box, he handballed the Englishman's shot from outside his area and got his marching orders. What on earth was going through his head will remain a mystery.

Late in the first half, a well worked short corner from Brandon O'Neill found Brilliante who drove into the box and took a shot which bounced off the woodwork but only as far as captain Alex Brosque. A simple tap in for Sydney's 700th competitive goal, and got Sydney back on level terms before half-time.

Just before the hour mark, another O'Neill corner kick caused havoc in the box. The ball found its way all the way to the far post for Siem de Jong to get a nice finish and put Sydney ahead. Two goals off corners? Insanity.

To cement this game's place in history, Jacob Tratt of all people scored the third goal for Sydney ensuring the win. O'Neill's good corner delivery was met with a raging bull header from Tratt - one that BobĂ´ would be proud of. Yep, three goals off corners. All in the one match.

3-1 a perhaps flattering scoreline considering quality of football served up, but three points nonetheless.

But what did we learn from the derby?

1) Set piece masterclass

After years of absolutely crap corners served up by Sydney's various set piece takers, to see three result in goals was amazing to see. We have scored so few goals from corners during the most successful period in the club's history - by my count only 3. O'Neill's deliveries were very strong, there was some height in the box, and players willing to run at them. 

2) Makeshift centre-backs 

The match started with Jop-Calver in the heart of defence, before the Dutchman copped a hamstring injury. Paulo Retre was brought on, with O'Neill moved into defence to act as the ball-playing defender we'd been so sorely missing. He did a terrific job moving the ball around, and put in some terrific blocks. One wonders whether he'd be a good choice going forward - or if the formation should be altered to allow O'Neill more time on the ball and further back the pitch in lieu of an actual ball playing defender. 

3) Hard to read 

This was a difficult match to watch - after Vedran was sent off Wanderers provided absolutely nothing and set up like an away team in a European knock-out match. Very hard to break down, and also quite heartless in their performance. Sydney ended up just toying with them outside the box for most of the second half which didn't make for excellent viewing. 

The positive of this however, is that it gave the Sky Blues plenty of passing practice which they desperately needed after the last few weeks. 

4) Does this tell us ANYTHING?

Heading into Perth away next week I am not particularly confident based off the derby performance. Had Janjetovic not been sent off I think we'd have lost this by two or three goals. It was a wake-up call, but even then they looked sloppy until half-time. Sydney looked vulnerable when they pressed in the opening thirty minutes and I can't help but feel Perth will punish them much more then Wanderers (a distinctly average side). It's hard to know what impact this win will have on the team. My worry is they'll get too confident from the performance and not really learn what still isn't working. 

Full player ratings

Perth away next week, in what will be a very difficult encounter. 

Final score: Sydney FC (3) def. WS Wanderers (1)
MOTM: Brandon O'Neill

- - - -

I'd like to thank those who have donated to me and this website via the ko-fi page, as it helps to pay for this website, and to produce more diverse content. Follow me on twitter at @VuvuZuvela 

Thursday, 13 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 5-2 Adelaide United (W-League)

Goals, goals, lightning, goals, goals, blackouts, goals, goals, goals. Sydney and Adelaide played out an absolute cracker at Cromer Park.

Sydney got off to a lively start against the Reds, with a lot of pace and a high pressing game. De Vanna hit the bar with a cross-turn-shot deep in the left wing. Unfortunately, lighting struck in the opening 20 minutes, forcing the game to be postponed for 40 minutes.

As soon as they got back from the break, Adelaide United hit Sydney on the counter. Latsko out-muscled Kennedy to put herself in a 1-on-1 with Bledsoe. She smoothly put it past the American 'keeper to put Adelaide 1-0 up.

Sydney were unlucky - they had started much stronger and had been passing the ball around well, on top of creating some strong chances. They battled till the death of the first half for an equaliser, and found one through Sofia Huerta who headed home from a nice Caitlin Foord cross in 45+3.

Ten minutes after halftime Sydney got themselves ahead for the first time in the match. Danielle Colaprico buried a shot after some strong lead-up play from Princess Ibini, Foord, and Savannah McCaskill.

Only 8 minutes later, Adelaide would get themselves back equal. Latsko beating Kennedy to a header which Bledsoe had no chance with. This match by this point still felt like it had plenty of goals left.

5 minutes later, Ibini won a free-kick at the byline. Colaprico aimed her free-kick to the far post, only to have it rattle off the crossbar - but back across the face of goal. McCaskill produced a diving header to put the Sky Blues back ahead yet again.

Then, the lights went out. The automatic 10pm lights-off caused a 15 minute delay, but this only seemed to make Sydney stronger.

A ball across the face of goal from the right wing met Logarzo, who had her glancing sidefoot effort hit the crossbar before Ibini buried the follow up. The substitute in the right place at the right time, and cool under pressure.

In 90+4 Ibini got herself a brace, with a low and hard effort from outside the box absolutely buried into the bottom corner.

But what did we learn from that crazy night of football?

1) Ibini makes a real impact

De Vanna was unlucky that her first half effort hit the bar, but failed to then convert a fairly east tap-in opportunity before being subbed off in favour of  Princess Ibini. The 18 year-old changed the game immediately. She played a major role in the second goal, as well as constantly beating opposition defenders with her pace and skill on the ball. Her first goal showed poacher's instinct and incredible composure considering the kind of night it had been. The second was pure class. Ibini looks very confident when she comes on, and is perhaps the right choice to start in the left-wing spot. 

2) Chances. Lots of them.

Sydney created a lot of chances. Not all of them golden opportunities but over the last 2 weeks they've gotten far more clinical with even half-chances. The goals have been a bit more varied too, with outside the box bangers, headed goals, tap-ins, and calm finishes. Since the 2-0 loss to Canberra they have improved considerably. 

3) McCaskill has gotten into form

Savannah McCaskill was one of the 2018 NWSL Rookie of the Year finalists, but since her first round performance against Western Sydney hasn't quite gotten into the groove. Much like the rest of the team, she looked far more lethal tonight. Her passing was strong, she was constantly positive with the ball, and was willing to take on a lot of chances. Her goal had been a long time coming, especially after missing a decent chance in the opening 5 minutes. 

4) How good is The Dub

I don't think I've ever laughed more during a football match about the circumstances the game found itself in. Lighting strike delaying the match for 40 minutes? Strange, but it happens. Lights go out at 10pm due to council curfew? Stranger, and very funny. 7 goals in one match? Great. A highly entertaining match. If you aren't watching the W-League you're missing out. High quality football, nice little grounds, and sometimes you get 2 major delays in a match! 

Ten goals in 4 days, two wins, and two very strong performances. Sydney seem to have gotten back into the groove. 

Final score: Sydney FC (5) def. Adelaide United (2)
MOTM: Danielle Colaprico

Monday, 10 December 2018

Bimbi in the Headlights

A lot of criticism has been thrown at Steve Corica over the last month or so, about his tactics and coaching style. For the first time in years, we're actively discussing sacking a coach after 7 rounds - which to me is incredibly reactionary.

This is not how fans should be thinking and reacting. We owe Corica and the club a lot. Any manager who replaces Graham Arnold is in for a tough ride. He is, in my opinion, the greatest manager the A-League will see. People forget how rare it is, especially in a salary capped league, to have such a dominant force.

Mierzejewski - a big loss
Things have definitely not started well for Corica. He lost the spine of the team - Buijs, Adrian, Bobo, and Wilkshire to some extent. That is 4 highly experienced starting players - and then the losses of Matt Simon and David Carney - the impact subs. He's had to be flexible with his squad as well with the amount of injuries we've picked up - Buhagiar, Warland, Zuvela all injured before the season started.

Lokolingoy, Devlin, Ivanovic have been chosen as the new impact subs with the current injuries. Together, they've had 15 appearances - none of them ever starting an A-League match. That is a massive fall from Matt Simon (over 200 appearances prior to joining Sydney), and David Carney (over 150 appearances prior to second spell at Sydney).

As for replacing Buijs, Adrian, and Bobo - there have been mixed results. Jop van der Linden is the direct replacement for Buijs, but has been unimpressive and a massive step down from Jordy Buijs. Adrian's replacement has been Siem de Jong - who copped an injury in round 2 and only just made his return - so it is hard to judge him yet. As for Bobo's replacement Adam le Fondre - he has clearly been a success so far. 9 goals in 10 appearances, and actively makes players around him better.

It is also true that the premiership winning players still at the club have been underwhelming so far. Bar Retre and Grant, none of them look close to the team who won the league by 17 points last year. I question their desire at the moment. Brilliante, Wilkinson, and Zullo have all been very below par. All three of them were in the PFA Team of the Year in 16/17 and 17/18, but have looked anything close to that 7 rounds in.

The key performance indicator for Corica in my view isn't really the league. If we finish top 6 - neat - but otherwise I think it matters less. The Asian Champions League should be where we really find out how good he is.

Arnold fluffed his last Asian Champions League campaign, by quite a lot - but let's remember his first ACL campaign with Sydney FC in 2016. We reached the Round of 16 with a team that included Andrew Hoole, Mickael Tavares, Zac Anderson, and Riley Woodcock. None of them would generally be considered good enough - but Arnold made them work into his system. A proper structured system.

He was careful in away matches, setting up defensively and focusing on counter attacks, with the pace of Naumoff and experience of David Carney. At the back, Matt Jurman and Seb Ryall were the brick wall. During the 2016 campaign, Sydney conceded just four goals in the group stage. Three cleansheets out of 6 matches.

Importantly, that campaign set up the foundations for the 2016/17 team structure. It was when we discovered how good Brandon O'Neill, Matt Jurman, and Rhyan Grant could be, and also where we needed to bolster the squad.

I bring this up because I think we can easily replicate the feats of that 2016 campaign with this squad, with some minor additions in January. Calver, Warland, Retre, and youngsters like Ivanovic, Zuvela and Devlin can really make a name for themselves in Corica's future plans.

In Asia, I believe that it is entirely possible we'll do well. But only if we realise we need to play defensively away from home, be solid at home, and play with a proper structure. That means being conservative with formation - change it to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1. Utilise our pacy players, and keep one or two experienced players on the bench to be game changers.

In my view, this is how we should set up in Asia:

Bench: Cisak, Calver, Brilliante, Zuvela, Devlin, Brosque, Lokolingoy

As for players we need to sign, I think for the ACL the club should look at a natural left winger such as Mitch Duke (currently a free agent after several years with Shimizu in the J.League) and bringing in another left-back - perhaps Alex Gersbach on loan.

I believe in Steve Corica, and think he can fix the squad's current issues and really think the Asian Champions League will be his time to shine.

- - - -

Thank you for reading this rather ramble-y blog post. I'd like to thank those who have donated to the site via the ko-fi page, found here, which helps me to post more content, and work towards more diverse content.

Find me on twitter at @VuvuZuvela.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 1-3 Wellington Phoenix (A-League)

Tonight was an absolutely shambolic display from Sydney FC. Ain't no doubt about it. It's arguably the worst performance the club has produced in the A-League since the 2015 Grand Final.

In lieu of doing my normal format of recapping events, I'm going to go straight into what we learnt from that terrible performance and what I think is going wrong.

1) Jop is a flop

I'm a big fan of ball playing central defenders, they're a massive part of modern football, and the role was integral to the successes over the last 2 years.

Jop has been a consistent liability to the team, and was at fault for all three goals conceded. Inability to communicate with Zullo and and his goalkeeper were why the first two goals were conceded. He gets so far out of the position Zullo is forced to cover, and then there's an acre of room for opposition players. 

The third goal also sums up another of his shortcomings - inability to read play or win headers. A centrehalf should not turn to jello when faced with a header - nor should he be caught that far out of position. What makes it worse is he doesn't communicate with Redmayne, who is left in a grey zone of whether or not his central defender is going to sweep up the ball or not. All three goals easily preventable. 

If he's kept on for his ball playing abilities, he's failing there too. He lacks confidence on the ball or passing range - which is integral to playing in that sort of role.

I think there's no way Aaron Calver could do worse than van der Linden. Up against a very good centre forward in Riera, I have no confidence in him to deal with the aerial threat considering how poor he's been in his opening 7 games.  

Calver in all honesty must be wondering what he'd need to do to get that starting spot.

2) There is no hook 

Our midfield and attack have no hook in the current formation and tactics. A 4-4-2 is a dated formation, it's old news for players and managers. In the current formation, Ninkovic is completely wasted out on the wing. He needs to be central, or else there's almost no point having him start. 

O'Neill and Brilliante made many individual mistakes and fumbled around on the ball, I'd wager neither of them made 60% passing accuracy. 

Their decision making has been very off this season - constantly losing out on 50/50s, losing the ball easily in possession. 

3) Too... slow... everywhere

From the back four, to the midfield, and attack - they are too slow. Both on the ball, off the ball, but particularly when defending. You don't need to be Usain Bolt over 100m to play football but you need to be a bit faster than pedestrian. Jop and Wilkinson are slow players - which is fine - but when you're a slow player partnering another slow player it is a recipe for disaster. 

Zullo struggled in the FFA Cup against pacy NPL wingers, which is a danger sign in itself - but since the league season has started has struggled to make any impact on the left flank. He was very poor against Mariners last week, and was poor again tonight. Gets forward - cannot track back. 

Up front there is very slow decision making. Constantly making the wrong pass or deciding to recycle the ball back to Redmayne. There were several times that Sydney could and should have had goal scoring opportunities but were just too slow, allowing Nix to get their full compliment of players back to defend.

4) The formation needs to be changed

At the moment, the 4-4-2 looks shocking and is a serious step back in style from the previously adequate and successful 4-2-3-1. I'm sincerely hoping this is the wake up call Corica needed to make him switch formation. Highly ineffective, and teams know how to combat it.

5) The only positive

Siem de Jong. He seemed to make a difference when he came on, allowing us to try something new. Very encouraging 45 from the Dutchman. Must start next week. 

Full player ratings
A truly shocking performance from the Sky Blues. I can't remember anything quite as bad as that since 2015/16. Next week they must do better. If they cannot get fired up and improve for a derby, there will be serious questions over Corica's position. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for a long time, but in January he needs to bolster this team.

Jop needs to be dropped next week, and Brilliante should spend some time on the bench.

Final score: Wellington Phoenix (3) def. Sydney FC (1)
MOTM: Siem de Jong

Saturday, 1 December 2018

MATCH REVIEW: Mariners 1-2 Sydney FC (A-League)

On a classic sunny day on the Central Coast, Sydney FC downed a resilient Mariners side.

Sydney FC began he game very off the pace, and had to thank Andrew Redmayne for stopping Mariners from an opening minute goal. A ball was played in low with no Sydney defenders close enough to it, fortunately Rhyan Grant blocked the initial shot, before Jack Clisby had a second attempt, this time saved by Redmayne.

However, 14 minutes later the away side weren't so lucky. Another ball played into the box from the right flank, this time with no Sydney defender even paying attention allowing Matt Simon to score a tap-in for Mariners. Similar to some of the defending in the previous week's loss to Victory, there was a lack of cohesion between the back four. All of them were caught out of position at some point in the move.

Approaching half-time, Rhyan Grant won a penalty after a clumsy trip from Jack Clisby just inside the area. Adam le Fondre fired his penalty so hard, it didn't matter that Ben Kennedy got a hand on it, it rocketed into the roof of the net.

Sydney very much looked abject in the first half, and thanked their lucky stars that they had won that penalty.

The second half they looked much better, winning the ball more often and actually stringing passes together.

The Sky Blues took the lead in the 65th minute, with one hell of a goal from Brandon O'Neill. The central midfielder received the ball after a short free kick routine was recycled, then took a shot from 25 yards with his left foot. Ben Kennedy dived forlornly at the shot but was no match. On a day Sydney needed some sort of magic, O'Neill delivered it.

The worldie was enough to secure Sydney their first 3 points since the international break.

But what did we learn from today's game?

1) It's just not clicking

Since the international break, they just haven't clicked. A mixture of injuries, players learning the new formation and tactics, and new players in new roles and perhaps wrong players. I'm not entirely convinced Brosque is best off starting, as I see him much more as an impact sub - especially without Carney and Simon. I suspect once de Jong is fit, he'll be playing as the second striker role with Brosque on the bench. He's perfect for a super sub as he's experienced, can read the game well, and can really add that edge that you need off the bench. 

2) What is it with defending? 

I'm not sold on the current back four's performances this season. Wilkinson has seemed a bit too slow, Jop isn't much of an enforcer (or ball player), Zullo is caught out of position a lot, but Grant is generally solid. I don't want Jop to be a scapegoat, but so far he's yet to make himself menacing to opposition strikers like Jurman and Buijs did. His tackling very ineffectual (when not plain dumb), and he's too slow on the ball. 

3) Lessons from youth

Surprisingly, we looked at our best today when Devlin, and Ivanovic had come on. The two youngsters looked good on the ball, eager to make an impression, and full of running. In Ivanovic's 20 odd minutes on the pitch he showed a lot of just solid skills on the ball. He put in a decent cross, looked more direct and perhaps a bit faster than Retre. We ended the game very strongly with the ball kept in the attacking half for almost the entire final 10 or so minutes. 

4) Ninkovic is brilliant... when he's used effectively

Milos Ninkovic is without a doubt one of the best players the league has seen, and has shown that particularly since 2016/17 onwards. His ability on the ball, vision, skill, and consistency makes him a threat for opposition players. During the first half however, he rarely received the ball or got fouled. In the second half there was a lot more attention given to Ninkovic on the left flank, with the majority of the movement coming from him, and him moving more centrally when on the ball. I firmly believe Ninkovic being played out wide is a waste, and that he works better in a more classic central attacking midfielder position. The current 4-2-2-2 doesn't favour him, and you should be building your team in such a way that favours your two best players (le Fondre and Ninkovic).

Full player ratings
It was far from pretty, but Sydney got the job done up on the coast. 

Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Central Coast Mariners (1)
MOTM: Milos Ninkovic