May 17, 2015

Horse 1899 - The Big Blue Boo Hoo - The A-League Grand Final

Melbourne Victory 3 - Sydney FC 0
Besart Berisha 33'
Kosta Barbarouses 83'
Leigh Broxham 90'

One of the great cliches often heard at the end of a football match is that "it was a game of two halves". The A-League Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC was not like this. It was a game of one half, that just happened to last 90 minutes - 90 increasingly excruciating minutes.

Going into this match there was little to separate the two sides after many encounters. Even after the lineups were announced and the opening formations before the match were made known, there was still little to separate the two sides. Both Kevin Muscat and Graham Arnold had nominated a 4-3-3 formation and both of them had flung words at each other before the match.
From the opening whistle though as a foul was blown, even before the ball had left the centre circle, it was kind of obvious which side was going to come out with more of a fire in their belly.

For both sides a 4-3-3 says that if they were to press forward, then the two outside forwards would slide towards the corners; this in effect meant that both sides only started with one true striker. For the Victory this was Berisha and for Sydney FC this was Janko.
This also meant that if one side was able to press forward, then they could contain and hold the opposition and this is more or less what Melbourne Victory did from the opening whistle.

The Victory, who were able to press forwards early, also took the initiative and the field position, which mean that Sydney FC would have to play on the counter attack in they were to do anything in the opening period. By hoping to contain the Victory, then were constantly tracking backwards, this freed up the Victory to push higher up the park and because they were doing so, they always had fresher legs to win back the ball if they lost it.
The tale of the first fifteen minutes is mostly the tale of the whole match. When the Victory lost the ball, they pushed harder and then were able to win the ball back in one-on-one contests. For the most part, Sydney were able to hold back the dark blue tide but then something truly disastrous for Sydney happened. Jacques Faty appeared to pull up short in one tackle and it was later found out that he'd pulled a hamstring and thus had to be replaced.

This was the vital difference that would be needed to split the difference between the two sides. Graham Arnold had not named any defenders on the subs bench and so switched on Rhyan Grant for the injured Faty in the 19th minute. This meant that Sebastian Ryall had to move inwards to replace Faty in central defence and Grant took Ryall's spot.
By not having a specialist defender on the subs bench, Arnold had basically written Sydney FC's death warrant.

For a quarter of an hour, Melbourne pushed even higher and gained ground even closer to Sydney's goal and it was a lapse in marking which saw an unmarked Besart Berisha fire a bullet across a hapless and hopeless defence and past the flailing Sydney keeper Janjetovic.
The score at half-time of only 1-0 to the Victory was flattering to Sydney who at that stage, I don't think had managed to put a single shot on target at the other end.

After the half-time break, the one way traffic resumed and Sydney lost ball after ball as the game turned ugly and yellow cards from both sides started to mount up. Arnold knew that he had to do something to tilt the game and so brought on striker Shane Smeltz for midfielder Christopher Naumoff but this was to no avail. Smeltz like Janko remained unfed as a striker and shots continued to rain down upon the Sydney goal. Arnold brought on a third striker in Terry Antonis but a mishap which saw a spill in the goal and Janjetovic save a first attempt but not a second from Kosta Barbarouses gave Sydney an impossible mountain to climb.

When Carl Valeri was given a second yellow card for a second offence it was too little too late for Sydney and a third lapse in Sydney's defence meant that Victory defender Leigh Broxham was able to follow through and put a shot past Janjetovic, who by this time had dropped his head.

3-0 was a result which befitted the match and also gives an indication of Melbourne Victory's total domination against a Sydney side which struggled to maintain any real coherent passages of possession at all.
Melbourne Victory took home their third title and are worthy champions, having also taken the Premier's plate in the regular season.

Schadenfreude is a German word which means taking joy in the misfortunes of others but I'm not experiencing that. I am feeling Gl├╝ckschmerz which is finding misery when good things happen to others. I'm not feeling green with envy, just blue. Sky blue. 

Blue, baby blue. I'm as a blue as I can be.
My Sydney boys lost all their toys,
To Melbourne Victory.

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