Perth and Sydney keep their social distance from the goals

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Sydney v Perth has been billed as a grand final rematch but unless it culminates in a wiggly Andrew Redmayne blocking an underwhelming Perth Panenka I say we let that go. 

I’ve been social distancing from the A-League for two weeks. It’s been kinda nice. Back to it this weekend and we’ve so far seen an unlucky CCM be slightly bested by Brisbane, an oversensitive coach log on to Twitter, and speculation that it’ll be #NixIn to Australia. A-League, I can’t quit you. 

Perth kick off and push Sydney up. They dominate the early minutes. Perth are diligent in attack but find Sydney hard to get through; Sydney find themselves with the ball at the other end and have the numbers but make nothing of it.

Twelve minutes in and Sydney have barely touched the ball. Perth are too clever at finding gaps and pushing forward, but Sydney’s defenders are sitting back and clearing it when it gets to them, equal parts haphazard and nonchalant. 

It takes them until the 15th minute to wake up, then they take the game’s best chance so far in the 17th prompting a diving save from Liam Reddy who stops a Ninkovic attempt, returns to standing, and watches a Kosta rebound sail wide of the net. 

Then Luke Brattan breaks my heart by disrobing a Perth defender in the box and tapping his ball into the back of the net, beaming down the camera with abject happiness, lifting up his shirt to reveal another shirt with the words ‘Stay strong Holli’ printed on it as he fist pumps and sinks into the arms of Anthony Caceres behind him… but then VAR intervenes. 

We’ve gotta stop saying ‘VAR intervenes’ like it’s an omniscient narrator here to mess things up – as happens when it rules out Brattan’s goal as a handball. Mate. Nobody intends to kick the ball onto their arm. What’s happened is the dude behind the VAR has intervened to break our hearts, all of them. 

Perth’s front line aren’t giving themselves enough space. They need to do a better job of drawing Sydney’s defenders out to avoid the bottleneck in front of goal. It’s like Easter weekend traffic with no one really getting anywhere. 

Perth is also much taller than Sydney so in the second half, when Sydney land more balls near the goal, they’re easily deflected by a head and shoulders that are a head and shoulders taller than their own. 

It’s a stalemate. Baumjohann gets subbed for Caceres with 25 minutes to go not through any fault of Caceres’. Luke Brattan is man of the match for me, and at this point the game should be decided by a one on one between Brattan and Diego Castro. Midfielder v midfielder. They can each choose a second: maybe Chianese and Caceres. Done. 

Redders makes his first real save of the game at the 73rd minute mark following a clever turn and plant from Fornaroli. Reddy makes his best save of the game ten-ish minutes later from a striding Ninko effort. 

Even Popa’s kid can’t save the day and we’re left with 0-0, a pretty apt summary of the game that sort’ve was. 

By Kelly Simpson

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