What is it with the draw this season? Round One, Mark Rudan gets a homecoming of sorts and then Round Two sees Ufuk Talay returning to his old stomping ground. I daresay Uffie got a much warmer reception this week than Rudes got on his return to Westpac.
Media on both sides of the ditch were hyping up the edge that Ufuk’s previous life at Sydney FC would give the Nix on Sunday. As a former right-hand man to Corica, he must have formulated a plan to counter their attack. I was skeptical to begin with but, as the Phoenix’s performance improved through the second half, I became a believer.
What I don’t believe in, are those yellow shorts teamed with the sexy black away shirt that my boys are sporting. As soon as they appeared on my television screen both my flatmate and I expressed disdain, fashion gurus that we are.
Unfortunately there was no time to dwell on the fashion choices as Sydney started charging at the Nix defence as soon as the whistle blew. The sinking feeling only Nix supporters can truly know was returning to the pit of my stomach.
11 minutes in and all I can think about it how good it would be to have a striker on the pitch. Ya know, someone to put the ball in the back of the damn net?! Fingers crossed Super Gary Hooper can work his magic when he finally takes the pitch (ASAP please Immigration).
A Sydney goal in the 17th minute did absolutely nothing for that sinking feeling. I counted five Nix players around O’Neill flopping about like marionette puppets with their strings cut. The ball deflected off David Ball and straight past a diving Marinovic.
I usually hate the “last 10 minute” stats but at 31 minutes when we had 5 shots on goal and Sydney had 0 I felt a wee bit better about life – at least we were getting into scoring positions. A definite improvement in bringing the ball up the pitch but seriously lacking any finishing potential. Honestly, could these lads score in a brothel?
On that note – someone once told me that everything that you hear on a football pitch (or in the commentary) wouldn’t sound out of place during an orgy. The commentators didn’t disappoint “Ball delayed his release too long”. Gold.
Half time – Sydney 1 – Nix 0
To be honest, the way Sydney were stringing passes together and coming at our defence, I was prepared for a much bigger goal difference heading in to the break. A glimmer of hope in the 44th minute when Sotorio struck a fantastic header forcing Redmayne to make a spectacular save. The sinking feeling in my stomach was easing.
The second half started a bit like the first with Barbarouses making a charging run towards the Nix defenders. I thought for all money he was going to pass it to le Fondre and make it 2-0 at the 48th minute. Alas, he didn’t, he went himself and Marinovic spared the Nix from further deficit.
With the Nix theme of the night being not getting the ball in the back of the net, I shouldn’t have been surprised when David Balls’ 49th minute strike hit the inside of the post. But I still yelled at the tv!
It’s not an A-League match without a little VAR controversy and in the 56th minute we were delivered a taste of that. Libby Cacace looked, in real-time, to have been taken down inside the box. Cue Nix fan outrage!!! Stupid VAR screwing us over again! I reigned in my angst on seeing the replay though. Nothing in it.
Less than 10 minutes later Sydney take back the lead – Rhyan Grant with an absolute worldy over the top of Marinovic…woof. It hurts but you can’t not be impressed.
Libby gets tangled up in another VAR review. This time in the 81st minute following a vomit inducing tackle. In the slo-mo replay it looked like he was rather close to snapping Caceres’ leg….YIKES! Even with my yellow-tinted glasses on I knew that he was going to be given his marching orders. Nix finish the match with 10 men. The sinking feeling creeps back.
Final whistle – Sydney 2 – Nix 1. It’s the hope that gets ya.
By Tracey Hodge
Image Photoshop by AardigOranje on Twitter