Covic, Reddy heroes in stalemate

The respective goalkeepers were the heroes at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night as Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC fought out a thrilling scoreless draw to open the new Hyundai A-League season.

The respective goalkeepers were the heroes at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night as Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC fought out a thrilling scoreless draw to open the new Hyundai A-League season.

Any frustration about the result should be tempered by the strong contributions of new recruits for both sides.

Harry Kewell played the full 90 minutes for the Victory, former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Marco Rojas was outstanding and left-back Fabio generally looked the part.

For Sydney, new defensive pairing Michael Beauchamp and Pascal Bosschaart were steady enough, though marquee signing Brett Emerton missed a penalty on debut.

However Victory keeper Ante Covic, signed earlier in the week as a late replacement for the injured Tando Velaphi, and his Sydney counterpart Liam Reddy were the real stars of the contest.

Covic achieved instant hero status with the home fans when he thwarted Emerton from the penalty spot in the 33rd minute, while Reddy kept Sydney viable with a fingertip save from a Kewell header in the shadows of half-time.

Covic coped brilliantly with everything that came his way and was in the action as early as the second minute when Shannon Cole fired from distance.

After spreading and blocking with his legs to deny Mark Bridge from point-blank range in the 30th minute, Covic found himself facing up to Emerton from the penalty spot just three minutes later after Victory left-back Fabio, with an arm wrapped around his opponent's waist, was adjudged to have dragged Bridge to the ground.

Emerton struck the ball cleanly low and hard to Covic's left, but the 36-year-old's reflexes were up to the task and he was able to tip the ball wide.

Covic pulled off his third crucial save in the space of six minutes when, at full stretch, he pushed wide a lovely curling drive from the dangerous Bridge.

Having weathered the best that Sydney could throw at them, Melbourne came close to taking the lead into half-time when Kewell leapt high to meet a Rojas cross from the right, only to find Reddy's outstretched right hand in the way.

That save was the best of several for Reddy, who twice denied Danny Allsopp in the first five minutes of the match.

The hectic early pace took its toll and the momentum slowed as the second half advanced before firing up again with 15 minutes left on the clock when Bridge was red-carded for an off-the-ball clash with Rody Vargas.

The Sydney striker appeared to make contact with his elbow to Vargas' throat while the players were jostling for position for a Kewell free-kick.

Allsopp had the best chance of the second half 10 minutes from time when Rojas picked him out with a sublime through-ball, only to find Reddy, once again, in the way.

Reddy did it again in the 88th minute, timing his challenge perfectly when one-on-one with Jean Carlos Solorzano who replaced a hobbled Archie Thompson.

Solorzano had one final chance in injury-time but snatched at his volley and blasted it over the bar to roars of frustration from the crowd of 40,000-plus.

Melbourne Victory 0 Sydney FC 0 Crowd: 40,351