The last time Sydney FC faced Melbourne Victory it took them all of three minutes to get on the board. That goal, and the five that followed, are immortalised in tonight’s TIFO unveiled under cloudy skies at Kogarah, as the clubs face each other for their first rematch since that fateful semi-final where they won 6-1.
But it’s a new era. Victory’s villains are gone: no more Muscat, no more Troisi, Kosta’s on our side now. Instead we’re facing *scans teamsheet* Anthony Lesiotis, and *squints* Benjamin Carrigan. That’s an easy joke, but Victory’s injury struck and facing a full strength Sydney team. I’d be scared.
But there’s no danger here. It’s a slow start on a ragtag pitch as each team keeps the other at bay. Sydney look relaxed and in control but Melbourne are cleverly sitting deep and proving impenetrable in defence. An immovable object and an unstoppable force make for hard viewing on this Sunday night. It’s not the start we were expecting and it stays that way for much of the first half.
Wherever there’s a Sydney chance, there’s a Melbourne defender. In the 8th minute, the ball passes from McGowan deep on the back line to Rhyan Grant, who bounces it off Baumjohann who takes it to Victory’s goal, passing to Barbarouses who fumbles it. Rebounding, it ends up with Ninko who flicks it to Retre who’s arriving just a little too late and gets defended by Victory right back Lauton. In the 9th, Alfie skies the ball over the goal.
19 minutes in and McGowan streaks well out of position to claim the ball and cross it to Barbarouses, who fumbles it away from goal. We haven’t heard whether lucky charm Lola Barbarouses is in the vicinity but so far it seems not. Sydney keep winning the ball off Melbourne in transition and then doing nothing with it. It’s not bad, it’s just boring.
Victory’s Ola Toivonen nearly heads the ball in off a Corey Brown corner at 23 minutes. Baumjohann gets a yellow card for a hard tackle on Migjen Basha at 35 minutes – the first of the game. Victory coach Marco Kurz has tonsillitis so he isn’t yelling, but he is giving off the vibe that he’s not angry, he’s just very disappointed. This changes in the 44th minute with a cracker of a cross by Victory’s Josh Hope that shoots straight past Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne into the back of the net via the head of Ola Toivonen. How good is Ola Toivonen? Single handedly keeping Melbourne’s season alive, chatting to the mascots in the tunnel before the game, calling out the commentators for talking bullshit – and now 1 up in the Big Blue.
With Sydney down 0-1 at home and the team looking glum in the dressing room, they have to bring something special, but early in the second half they’ve not changed a lot. 51 minutes in and Retre gets carded for dragging Josh Hope. It’s a cynical foul. 60 minutes in and there’s still only been one shot on target – Victory’s. Sydney finally get a shot on target with a Ninko special that Lawrence Thomas punches to the top left of the crossbar which forces a Sydney corner. Brandon O’Neill takes it and his ball finds Alfie in the box who heads it down and bouncing past Thomas, reaching the back of the net. 1-1.
65 minutes in and Victory welcomes former Socceroo striker Robbie Kruse to the pitch, who proceeds to have a pretty quiet game. A minute later, Baumjohann is subbed off for Anthony Caceres, who brings fresh legs that inject a new energy into Sydney. Strong build up play sees Brandon O’Neill cross the ball to the chest of Rhyan Grant, who bumps it into Kosta’s feet, which kick it into the crossbar and then follow it through as it rebounds. 2-1.
Kosta said he wouldn’t celebrate should he score a goal, but his entire team have played Stacks On with him in the middle regardless.
Retre gets subbed off for Michael Zullo, Sydney’s left back who’s back from injury, and it’s clear he’s wanting to make up for lost time. Sydney has numbers, now. Melbourne defensive midfielder Migjen Basha, who’s probably the closest adherent to the Muscat school of taking them all down, gets carded for pulling on Barbarouses, while Robbie Kruse shoulder charges Alfie in the 75th minute. Both teams play hard until the final minute of the 5 minutes added extra time, but it’s not to be for Victory tonight. They’re a kinder, gentler Melbourne Victory now. They just score a lot less goals.
By Kelly Simpson