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Sky Blues prevail in fiery Sydney derby

Sydney FC came from two goals down to beat bitter rivals Western Sydney 3-2, in front of a sell-out crowd of 41,213 fans at Allianz Stadium.

In what was a physical encounter, Vitor Saba was given his marching orders midway through the second half, with Sydney FC book-ending that moment with a pair of goals to complete a famous derby comeback.

Graham Arnold made numerous changes to a Sydney side that drew 1-1 with Melbourne City last week. Bernie Ibini and Austrian import Marc Janko both started up front after returning from international duty, with youngster Alex Gersbach getting the nod in defence. Nick Carle would be pushed back to the bench, where he’d be joined by another inclusion in Ali Abbas.

For the visitors, Tony Popovic welcomed back Socceroo Nikolai Topor-Stanley into his starting lineup, slotting into a defence in desperate need of a shore up after last week’s capitulation against the Victory. Antony Golec would move to left back to accommodate Topor-Stanley’s return, with Shannon Cole having to be content with a spot on the substitutes bench.

Unusually, both teams entered the field of play separately, adding to the theatre of a contest that has built up significantly over the last few seasons. Ognenovski and Santalab’s early confrontation surely re-assuring those watching that these two teams would hold nothing back over the 90 minutes.

Sydney’s Bernie Ibini enjoyed the first two chances of the game. Firstly, in the 7th minute, his snap shot from a deep free-kick flashed safely over the bar. Then, two minutes later, his run into the box, after being fed by Alex Brosque, ended with a wicked, dipping effort that narrowly cleared Ante Covic’s crossbar.

It would be the Wanderers, however, who would open the scoring after 19 minutes. An attacking corner was half cleared by the Sydney FC defence, with Romeo Castelen played in on the right after the Wanderers re-set themselves for another attack. The Dutchman sped past Gersbach, spotted Bridge unmarked in a central position and delivered the ball on a platter for the striker. Bridge made no mistake, setting himself and smashing the ball past Vedran Janjetovic to give the Wanderers an early lead.

That lead would be extended just 5 minutes later, and in peculiar circumstances. A corner was flicked on by Bridge, before cannoning high up into air inside the penalty box. Janjetovic tried to catch the ball in a crowd of players, but only succeeded in misjudging the ball’s flight, and fumbling it over his shoulder and over the line for a second Wanderers’ goal.

The two-goal lead allowed Western Sydney to push higher up the park and further pressure the Sydney defence. At the other end, the home side struggled to create clear-cut chances, with poor touches and sloppy passing plaguing their game.

With just seconds remaining in the half, though, Corey Gameiro threw his side a lifeline, when a clever Alex Brosque back-heel allowed the striker some space in the box. A long ball down the left flank released Brosque behind the Wanderers defence, and his deft layoff allowed Gameiro to cut inside of Daniel Mullen and punch a low shot past an outstretched Covic.

After the break, the home side came out on the front foot, and quickly had the game back on level terms. A series of back-to-back corners in front of the Cove in the 50th minute seemed destined to end fruitless, but a fortunate deflection off the heel of Romeo Castelen saw Sasa Ognenovski’s shot deflect past a stranded Covic and into the back of the net.

Sydney continued to press, and looked the more likely to take the lead, as the Wanderers struggled to deal with the home side’s renewed vigour.

The equation would become even more difficult for Popovic’s side in the 69th minute, when a two-footed tackle by Vitor Saba rightfully earned the import his marching orders from referee Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Shots to Janko and Ryall in the 73rd minute came to nothing, as Sydney continued to push for a winner. Alex Brosque then had a headed chance flash wide of the far post in the 78th minute, and it seemed as if Sydney might not find their elusive third goal.

Just a minute later, though, and Sydney’s captain would atone for the miss. A cross from Gersbach was well brought down by Gameiro, who flicked the ball on intelligently for Brosque. Taking a touch, Brosque steadied and guided the ball past Covic and into the far corner, queuing delirium in the stands for those dressed in sky blue.

In the final minutes of an enthralling match, Sydney had some half-chances to add to their lead, but ultimately it wouldn’t matter as Sydney secured the three points in what was a fiery, but memorable, derby match.

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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  • Barnabas

    Two footed tackle? Probably best to watch the game next time.

  • Ultimate A-League

    Just checked out the replay again, and Saba jumped into the tackle and collected Antonis with both legs. Not sure how else we could word it. Thanks for reading, though!

  • Cynth

    You better watch it again, you keeping missing it.

  • Terry

    Grest game and article. Saba’s tackle was dangerous and warranted the red! Sydney is sky blue!