What was different about Sydney FC against the Mariners

Tony Tannous Columnist

By Tony Tannous, Tony Tannous is a Roar Expert


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    Former Sydney FC coach Frank Farina. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

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    While there is still much work to be done to turn around what has hitherto been an embarrassing season, there were much better signs from Sydney FC in their shock 1-0 win over the competition pace-setters on Thursday night.

    Among the most impressive things about Sydney’s performance was the condition of the players.

    Already there is evidence that Anthony Crea, the man brought in by Frank Farina to get the squad in shape has been having an impact.

    For a team that has particularly struggled in defensive transition this season, this was their most complete defensive performance of the campaign.

    While they didn’t always flow in attack, they looked for more structured and organised to deal with an opponent that has been flying at the head of the competition.

    But for a couple of moments when Daniel McBreen and Mitchell Duke got in behind, the Sky Blues transitioned almost as swiftly into defence as the team coached by Vitezslav Lavicka in his first season.

    Graham Arnold came into this game with a plan to sit back in his own half, not press Sydney high, and react swiftly when they won the ball.

    No doubt reasoning that Sydney’s defence has looked a mess throughout the opening 12 rounds, he would have been hoping to take advantage of the holes he thought would inevitably open up on the counter.

    But Farina and his men had other ideas.

    Apart from the opening 15 minutes or so, when Tom Rogic threatened to cut the game open with his incisive touches, gliding and dribbling, Sydney coped well.

    Once the game settled down and Sydney started to control possession through much patience on the ball and use of width, Sydney showed they might even have the ability to control an opponent.

    At the heart of their plan without the ball was the young holding midfielder Peter Triantis, making his starting debut after coming off the bench in Wellington.

    It was some responsibility for Farina to thrust his way.

    Not only was Triantis the only holder in a new look four-man diamond midfield, but he was entrusted with the job of halting Rogic, one of the hottest properties in the local game.

    Apart from the opening period, where he conceded a yellow card for a challenge from behind on Rogic, Triantis did an exemplary job.

    The fact he played almost the entire game on a yellow card, with his type of combative game, speaks to a tactical awareness.

    Shadowing Rogic everywhere he went, the player signed from Sydney Olympic on a youth contract frustrated the silky schemer for much of the night.

    Perhaps it was Triantis’s bulldog-like pressing and hassling, invariably clean, that prompted Rogic to snap and get himself sent off for an awful late challenge.

    Few have been able to shackle or rattle Rogic in the past 12 months, and he might now get a couple of weeks to think about how he reacts in future.

    In many ways, Triantis reminds me of a couple of former Olympic players in Peter Zorbas and Paul Kohler, not the most blessed of passers, but diminutive and fiercely competitive in defence.

    Looking at Farina’s 4-4-2 line-up, Triantis looked like he might be isolated, with Alessandro Del Piero ahead of him, Brett Emerton to his right and Ali Abbas to his left.

    It looked a midfield bereft of press.

    But with two speedsters in Blake Powell and Yairo Yau up top, split wide, Sydney had a plan.

    It was to sustain possession, with Del Piero orchestrating the play, giving another master-class in how to protect the ball.

    When Sydney dished it up, there was a real commitment to funnel men back behind the ball.

    The Mariners tried to go quickly, but, much to their frustration, Sydney were able to keep up.

    Even when the Mariners got in behind Sydney’s left late and Rogic was lining up a tap-in, there was Triantis, sprinting back, applying just enough pressure to get a touch and put Rogic off, forcing him to shoot over.

    It typified Sydney’s desire this night.

    Already, only a month or so after Farina and Crea joined, the Sky Blues look a far better conditioned side.

    Arnold may have gambled that Sydney would crumble and his side would finish stronger, but there was a steely determination about the hosts, one we have rarely seen this season.

    In front of a bumper Christmas crowd of just under 17,000, it was the type if mental approach Sydney fans would expect more regularly.

    With Del Piero in a great mood, assuming the responsibility, and the rest providing the legs, they were able to finish strongly.

    The Mariners, meanwhile, will mark is down as a poor day at the office, and the signs where there when their bus turned up late for pick-up.

    Arnold will reflect and wonder whether sitting off and reacting swiftly was the best way to deal with this struggling Sydney side.

    It wasn’t his greatest tactical night.

    But Sydney and Farina, emboldened by some sustained possession and better defensive organisation, should take a bit of confidence out of this showing.

    By no means has their season turned around, but it was a performance that gives them hope, even if the Mariners played into their hands somewhat.

    While Farina still has much to sort out, if he can get this type of mental and physical application, and all-team defensive effort, on a consistent basis, then he at least has a base.

    If he can surround such plans with more quality, then the football is likely to get better, and Sydney FC fans will tell you it’s not before time.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

    Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • December 29th 2012 @ 6:03am
      Bondy. said | December 29th 2012 @ 6:03am | ! Report

      Australian A League Football is very much a technical league more so now than two to three years ago (really patrol your No 10’s), the tactical element to the game within australia I believe is very similar to a spanish or german football “obviously not quite there yet ” but its very enjoyable technically.

      Sydney fc have always been competitive if you look back at their results I think you’ll find they’ve been in most contests for 70 mins and then hit the psycholgical wall, they really dont have goal scorers Y, Yau is constantly snatching at goal scoring opportunities infact he hasnt come close to shooting on target for mine away to Newcastle would be a perfect example of that.
      I’d like Frank to give the kids a bit more of a go, Powell and the likes.

      I would take caution with this result noting the mariners have the best organised defence in the comp and with screening holders in front of the centrehalves in away games where hard to toss on any occasion. I would point out that Thomas is not as good as Musty not yet, both will represent this great nation of ours sooner rather than later.

      Nice read mate.

    • December 29th 2012 @ 7:30am
      AGO74 said | December 29th 2012 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Spot on about conditioning. It was the first game in a long tine where Sydney finished the stronger against their opponents.

      Playing with ADP in the hole but supported by two strikers instead of one meant that he was not isolated as in other games. For all his talents his now lack of pace coupled with lack of support of other players nearby meant his effectiveness has been diluted. I don’t think it is any surprise that playing with two pacy strikers coincided with one of his best FC games.

      Encouraging signs but at the end of the day it is still just one win.

      • December 29th 2012 @ 8:34am
        Kasey said | December 29th 2012 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        Great article again Tony.
        If I may go off on a Tangent. The Rogic Straight Red late in the game. For me it was as easy a decision as a ref has had to make all season. a two-footed lunge certainly qualifies as serious foul play(or even violent conduct!) under the LOTG, but I have seen many Coastie fans online unhappy with the decision.

        I could see that Rogic was being ‘tagged’ quite heavily to use an AFL term and he copped more than a few little niggling fouls from the Sydney midfielders trying to disrupt his running with the ball, but there is no excuse for that sort of tackle. I get the feeling those Mariner fans unhappy with the decision including Mr G Arnold are just having a whinge because they lost to the bottom placed team.

        ADP was also being very closely marked and copped quite a few niggling jabs but he didn’t lash out in frustration at the end. What does the peanut gallery on here think?

        • December 29th 2012 @ 10:36am
          AGO74 said | December 29th 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          Personally (and I am FC biased) I think ADP got more rough treatment than Rogic. No question Rogic deserved red.

        • December 30th 2012 @ 9:47pm
          Melange said | December 30th 2012 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

          Kasey, I think the Rogic tackle was more badly timed then malicious. Perhaps the CCM fans (and I am one) are reacting more to some over the top comments suggesting Rogic was trying to end Grant’s season.

          What strikes me as ludicrous, is hearing Slater’s comments that any review panel should take into consideration the amount of times Rogic was hacked down during the match and be lenient. Sorry, but a bad tackle is a bad tackle, how you were treated in the lead up has nothing to do with it.

          • December 30th 2012 @ 10:03pm
            Kasey said | December 30th 2012 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

            There is no question Rogic is one of the nice guys who just had a rush of blood and was tired late in the game.
            I’m sure he is as ‘devastated’ with his tackle as Arnie bleats that he is. He is certainly no Muscrat.

            I have to agree with your comment regarding provocation, ADP showed how to a true experienced professional handles it, with a knowing smile on his face almost viewing it as a compliment that the other team thought the only way to stop him was to get rough.

            Now we have EuroSnobs in Adelaide spitting the Dummy online because they bought their ticket to see ADP and they feel robbed that he’s not playing. Not going to a live football game you’ve already paid for because one player out of 22 on the park is injured and out = NOT a football fan. If he had played and snapped his hammy 5 minutes in would they have got up and left the stadium?

    • December 29th 2012 @ 8:26am
      Qantas supports Australian Football said | December 29th 2012 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Thanks Tony—as a SFC supporter based on the Gold Coast it is hard to fathom with what is going on at SFC. I had high hopes this season would be a bumper season under Ian Cook who I thought was a promising manager yet to get his big chance. It didn’t happen of course and he left with great disappointment to all concerned.

      Now Farina is in charge—it is now back to basics. Get the team fit and play to the strengths of this current SFC lot with his favourite formation 4-4-2.

      Well if it is to be the old fashion way, but getting the right results then that’s fine with me. We have ADP to add the entertainment with his skillful ball control and superb defence splitting passes. I reckon Farina knows how to exactly play ADP with his old legs i.e. he needs to be the maestro not the orchestra.. I look forward to watching, (if I can on a reliable internet stream) more further progress of SFC.

      But this current lot must be the oldest team in the HAL. After watching MBV and Jets last night the pace and tempo of that game was phenomenal. I still reckon Ange Postecoglou is the bench mark of managers who knows not only how to build a team, but how to build a club for the long term.

    • December 29th 2012 @ 8:40am
      striker said | December 29th 2012 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      What i loved with ADP reaction after the game he was so happy and that to me shows that he wants to stay in Sydney and if sydney wants to build a solid club with a big fan base they must re-sign ADP at all cost as he gives this club and league so much credibility, the games this year have been outstanding and i prefer watching our games to the premier league.

    • December 29th 2012 @ 10:41am
      nickoldschool said | December 29th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      Definitely some improvement but with an average striker like Yau it’s always going to be hard to win games. He has speed but his accuracy is pretty poor. He made a mess of AdP’s pass above the last defender, probably because he didn’t ‘feel’ the pass of the Italian. A striker has to score goals without necessarily outpacing the defence.

    • December 29th 2012 @ 11:24am
      Christo the Daddyo said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:24am | ! Report

      Yes, to me the two standout aspects of SFC’s game was their structure and their ability to see out the game. I’ve always said that their second half of the season will be a big improvement on their first. If the team can achieve a good level of fitness and the ability to maintain good structural discipline, then there is enough talent in the team to get some good results.

      But get the basics right first.