Sydney FC have come from two goals down to win an epic derby 3-2 against a 10-man Western Sydney Wanderers in front of a record crowd at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
The visitors looked on course for a comfortable victory as they raced to a 2-0 lead inside 24 minutes thanks to goals from Mark Bridge and an embarrassing own goal by Vedran Janjetovic.
But Corey Gameiro pulled one back right on half-time and further goals to Sasa Ognenovski and skipper Alex Brosque – after Vitor Saba was shown a straight red card – capped an amazing comeback by the Sky Blues.
The thrilling contest was played in front of 41,213 fans, Sydney’s biggest ever regular season home crowd and the largest crowd of any code for a regular season match.
WHAT THEY SAID
“There’s been a big build up to the game all week and I Think you saw in the first 20 minutes it was very tense from both teams. But this is what football has become in this country and credit to both sets of fans. – Sydney FC skipper Alex Brosque.
“We played well for 44 minutes but lost concentration in the last minute and got punished. They came out in the second half and we probably sat back a little bit, maybe lost a bit of intensity but still we shouldn’t be conceding three goals after leading 2-0. – Wanderers goal-keeper Ante Covic
0-1 Bridge (19’) – Romeo Castelen showed great skill and power to get around Alex Gersbach down the right before crossing and picking out an unmarked Bridge who did well to control his volley, bouncing into the turf and into the roof of the net.
0-2 Janjetovic og (24’) – A quickly taken corner by Vitor Saba saw Sasa Ognenovski scuff his clearance, the ball going straight up in the air and coming down right near the goal-line. In traffic Janjetovic tried to punch the ball away but only succeeded in knocking it into his own goal.
1-2 Gameiro (45+1’) – Gameiro got free down the left, finding Alex Brosque who returned the ball to the youngster with a brilliant back-heel. Gameiro steadied himself before slotting the ball past Ante Covic into the far corner of the net.
2-2 Ognenovski (49’) – A corner caused havoc in the Wanderers defence, with Ognenovski pouncing on the loose ball. The ex-Socceroos defender got a shot away on the swivel which took a couple of deflections and rolled in past a stranded Covic, although there was a suspicion of offside against Bernie Ibini.
3-2 Brosque (79’) – Gameiro was given too much space in the box, squaring the ball to Brosque who capped his brilliant performance with a calm finish from just six yards out.
Down 2-0 and lacking attacking thrust, the Sky Blues appeared dead and buried heading into half time. But a superb one-two between Gameiro and skipper Alex Brosque – who pulled off a classy back-heel – allowed the former to score and bring the home side back into the contest. Proved the turning point as Sydney went on with the job in the second half.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The Wanderers somehow took a lead to the break despite being behind in most of the key stats. Tony Popovic’s side had less than 40 percent possession, made only 144 passes to Sydney FC’s 240 and had just two shots but still led 2-1 at half-time.
More than 41,000 fans provided a sensational atmosphere with loads of colour, noise and constant chanting throughout the 90 minutes. And the game lived up to the occasion, both sides putting on a brilliant spectacle in front of a record crowd on a memorable night for the Hyundai A-League.
With the game on a knife edge midway through the second half, Saba’s reckless studs-up lunge at Terry Antonis left referee Kris Griffiths-Jones with no choice but to show a straight red card and left the Wanderers to play more than 20 minutes with 10 men.
The Wanderers finished the match with nine men as Brendon Santalab limped off late on with what looked like a serious hamstring injury on his left leg.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
With giant marquee man Mark Janko making his first start, the Sky Blues were over reliant on the long ball in the first half, especially from centre-backs Ognenovski and Nikola Petkovic. Janko and Gameiro were often isolated allowing the Wanderers to win back possession easily. It changed after the break and Sydney’s performance lifted as a result.
THE FINAL WORD
Sydney FC proved they are made of sterner stuff this season to be able to fight back from two goals down to beat their bitter rivals. The talk in pre-season was about how their new signings gives them greater fire-power and it was evident against the normally resolute Wanderers. It’s the perfect tonic ahead of their trip to Brisbane next weekend to play the Roar.
The Wanderers have now lost three straight Hyundai A-League games for the first time in their history and confidence must be sapped having conceded seven goals in the opening two games. It will be interesting to see how they will pick up the pieces ahead of the ACL final against Al Hilal over the next fortnight.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Ognenovski, Petkovic, Gersbach, Antonis, Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Gameiro (Abbas 83’), Janko
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic, Mullen (Haliti 87’), Hamill (Appiah 75’), Topor-Stanley, Golec, Poljak, La Rocca, Castelen (Cole 72’), Saba, Bridge, Santalab
Scorers: Bridge (19’), Janjetovic own goal (24’), Gameiro (45+1’), Ognenovski (49’), Brosque (79’)
Red cards: Saba (69’)
Yellow cards: Ryall (23’), Santalab (35’), Ibini (56’), Ognenovski(61’)
Conditions: 20C, Dry