FFA Cup: Sydney fluffed their lines and their tactics hindered rather than helped

Matt Connellan Columnist

By Matt Connellan, Matt Connellan is a Roar Expert

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53 Have your say

    There’s been talk of Sydney FC going unbeaten this season, but such notions were always premature, and their last three performances including last night’s will leave Graham Arnold with plenty to ponder.

    Sydney’s six-game winning streak to start the season will be largely irrelevant by season’s end – the A-League is such a long slog that anyone can win from anywhere as Adelaide proved last time around.

    It will be of serious concern how many big players didn’t show up for the FFA Cup’s showpiece event – and is also a concern to see Sydney reject their passing game in favour of an aerial bombardment for the last half an hour as they tried to find a way back into the game.

    First to the players.

    Filip Holosko and Milos Ninkovic, so good in the six game winning streak, were in the background, the former withdrawn after only an hour.


    Brandon O’Neill and Josh Brillante lost the metronomic consistency which has been their hallmark this season, eschewing their short passing to spray Hollywood passes to the flanks which inevitably turned over possession.

    And tactically – Arnold, unflappable as his team cruised to their six wins in a row, panicked in the dugout, sending on one of his favourites Matt Simon with half an hour to go, pairing him with Bobo in attack and proceeding to watch his side play a procession of long balls in their direction.

    You could count Simon’s touches in that last half an hour on one hand, for all his heart and persistence he is a plan C player for the last ten minutes, not plan B for the last half an hour.

    Arnold made life difficult for himself with the change of shape, too. With Ninkovic and Alex Brosque in the wide positions of the 4-4-2 they were as far away from their most effective areas as possible and with the ball flying over the heads of Brillante and O’Neill, there was no control whatsoever.

    It meant Arnold’s only other option in pursuit of an equaliser was to withdraw O’Neill and replace him with David Carney. It was a move that smacked of desperation and with the side already committed to playing long in the direction of Simon and Bobo, the influences of Brosque, Ninkovic and Carney in the final part of the game were minimal.

    The simple solution would have been to replace the misfiring Holosko with Carney instead of Simon and continue to back the side to rediscover the panache that took them on their winning streak.

    Carney was hugely effective as a substitute on the right hand side (where he made his name all those years ago) as Sydney chased the game against Melbourne Victory a few weeks ago – it was the obvious thing to do.

    Instead, they were too clever by half – and it really ruined their chances of getting back into the game.

    City meanwhile, did what they had to do, and they leant on a proven match winner.

    Tim Cahill is obviously a player who knows how to win big games, it’s a skill Sydney and Arnold are still to discover.

    Matt Connellan
    Matt Connellan

    Matt Connellan is a reporter for Fox Sports News. He was previously a football writer for SBS The World Game and a sports reporter for SBS World News Australia. Matt cut his teeth at some of Australia's great suburban football grounds as Football NSW's NPL Editor and he considers himself an authority on state league cevapi rolls. Find him on Twitter: @MattConnellan

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • December 1st 2016 @ 7:03am
      Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      The pressure told for both sides – City had never won a trophy and Sydneys last piece of silverware came so long ago it was probably pre-federation. Cup final pressure got to both sides and we got an absorbing contest if low in quality.

      SFC were never as good as that 6-match winning streak suggested, talked up by a nsw-centric media Arnie only heaped more pressure on to his players by linking them to the Aresenal “invincibles”. Why would a coach do that? Odd little man!

      This weekend marks one third gone of an incredibly short league season and how both sides react to this one game is important.

      It’s improbable SFC will lose away to the Jets before they return home to face a tricky rematch with city followed by a long haul away to glory; they can afford to drop points but not too many and not for too long.

      City have a tough few games also, Roar then SFC away, and losing both would leave them with a monumental cup final hangover leading into the next Melbourne derby.

      • Roar Rookie

        December 1st 2016 @ 9:28am
        The Phantom Commissioner said | December 1st 2016 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        Watching Arnie slowly descend into madness over a season is one of the most entertaining things one can watch, another loss or two and the bullish man we see talking about being the ‘”Invincibles” will be skipping post game interviews and press conferences.

        • December 1st 2016 @ 9:35am
          punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          The sad thing is currently, they still are the ‘Invincibles’ in the A-League.

          • December 1st 2016 @ 10:00am
            Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:00am | ! Report

            The invincibles in the A league would be 27 games unbeaten, maybe even 36. Anything less and you’re asking for ridicule right.

            Arnie may have the last laugh on this but right now all he’s done is heap a whole load of pressure on his players by even daring to link an unbeaten start over 8 games with a foreign clubs unbeaten entire season.

            • December 1st 2016 @ 10:31am
              punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:31am | ! Report

              If you took the interview in context, you will understand Arnie did not come out & make this statement, he was asked whether he could & he said ‘why not’ we can be like the ‘invincibles’, but alas, everyone wants to take out of context yet again to serve our glee when this does not occur!!!!

            • December 1st 2016 @ 10:34am
              punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              Plus, they may not be the ‘invincibles’, but they are the only that can.

              Just like the winner of the Australia tennis open, when asked ‘can you win the grand slam this year’? He answers ‘it will be hard, but why not’. Instead he should answer, ‘I don’t know, but I’m the only one this year who can’.

              • December 1st 2016 @ 11:08am
                Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                Arnie has had media training, he would have known what to say and what not to say. In response a better answer would have been to distance himself from the word “invincibles” and not let it loose into the media but he chose to open Pandora’s box. So Arnie is to blame and rightly cops a serve over it, it’s a statement that may come back to haunt him that’s all. (And heck, if SFC do go unbeaten we all know we’re going to hear about it lol)

              • December 1st 2016 @ 12:19pm
                punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

                Waz as you said Arnie has had media training, do you really think he would put so much pressure on his team or himself.

                I’m a SFC fan & would be happy to lose 3-4 games & win the premiership by a pt & suffer all your barbs about ‘invincibles’ .

              • December 1st 2016 @ 12:41pm
                Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

                lol. I Know you would ?

    • December 1st 2016 @ 7:30am
      j binnie said | December 1st 2016 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Lads- Never mind the in -depth analysis,this was a once only “cup-tie” that was played accordingly and from the noise around the ground it could be taken that the near 19,000 crowd were enjoying every minute of the entertainment.
      That is the most important factor.
      Historically, cup-ties,even finals,seldom live up to the reputations of the participants for an “end result” is required with the result “winning” becomes the all important factor on the night. Great show. Cheers jb.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2016 @ 7:52am
      Mister Football said | December 1st 2016 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      It was a tight game, where one goal was sufficient to determine the result.,

    • December 1st 2016 @ 8:00am
      Nemesis said | December 1st 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      I think we over-analyse matches and make too many over-arching statements based on hindsight. The match ended 1-0. It was a tight contest all night. I don’t recall Vukovic being asked to make too many saves. Carney could’ve come on on & set up Simon to score the winner and the post-match discussion suddenly becomes totally different.

      City won. Sydney lost. That’s the ony analysis I got from the match. Neither side showed any semblance of the system they’ve used when they play to their best this season. In fact, truth be told, it was a poor match for neutrals. But, the winners won’t care.

      • December 1st 2016 @ 9:12am
        DH said | December 1st 2016 @ 9:12am | ! Report

        Finals and big matches can, and usually do, get away with not being great spectacles. But the occasion itself means no matter the quality, the match will still be gripping to watch.

        Last night was a case in point. Not the greatest match, but gripping throughout.

        A good summary, if not just a bit too Sydney-centric.

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2016 @ 8:52am
      Kaks said | December 1st 2016 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      I love seeing Sydney lose more than most, and they did not deserve to win on that performance, but let’s not kid ourselves – the officiating was abysmal, especially in the last 10minutes.

      From the linesman not calling an obvious goal-kick when City ran the ball out, to Fornaroli getting a soft free kick in the corner of the field for quite clearly going down too easily even though he initiated the contact, to Brosque somehow not getting a free kick even though there was more in it than Fornaroli’s 2 minutes prior. The lack of consistency, or lack of common sense, or lack of calling anything that is plain as day is starting to get worse and worse. I can understand why many believe City to be FFA’s lovechild, everything that has occurred this season with regards to contentious refereeing to off-field marketing has been in City’s favour.

      And for the love of god, can people like Andy Harper please stop commentating. I am sick of his hypocritical comments where he continuously glorifies divers like Fornaroli and Brandan for being ‘smart’ because they ‘force contact’ (if there was any) and fall over, winning a free kick – only for it to be wrong if someone else does it.

      Again, Sydney did not deserve to win as they were woeful – but the officiating was atrocious.

      • December 1st 2016 @ 9:26am
        punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Come on Kaks, I know you see everything with a red and black eye & still struggle to understand why you guys cannot beat the mighty BLUES. But Sydney was not woeful. As JB says above this was a cut throat cup final, no-one wanted to lose, it was gripping. Yes the game never reached any great heights & neither team played at their best, but…..
        Sydney FC was playing in Melbourne against the most potent attack the A-League has ever seen & they kept them very quiet, like I said City were not at their most fluent best, but it was solid, tough cup football, played by 2 highly professional teams.

        Open your eyes mate, I shout you a Caramel latte.

      • December 1st 2016 @ 10:04am
        Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Even Brosque is saying he wasn’t sure he was fouled at the end there, looking at the tv replay I think the referee called it correctly and it’s time we fans gave the credit when they do get it right (and credit to Brosque for being man-enough not to engague in BS as well)

        • Roar Guru

          December 1st 2016 @ 10:31am
          Kaks said | December 1st 2016 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          I would have had no issue with it had the referee not awarded a more blatant ‘flop’ from Fornaroli 2 minutes prior to that. You cant have one rule for one team/player and another for another team/player.

          • December 1st 2016 @ 11:17am
            Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 11:17am | ! Report

            I can’t recall the flop that your referring too so won’t comment on that.

            But the Brosque incident went like this; Brosque grabs the defender, a wrestling match commences, defender wrestles back, attacker falls over, ball goes through to the keeper.

            The ref doesn’t need to make a decision as Brosque fouled first and city have the ball. That’s all there is too it – there isn’t one rule one way or the other. Brosque committed the first foul so it’s either a city free kick or play on

            • Roar Guru

              December 1st 2016 @ 11:39am
              Kaks said | December 1st 2016 @ 11:39am | ! Report

              If you get the chance to watch the game again, watch the free kick Fornaroli ‘wins’ for his team a few minute’s prior to the Brosque incident near the left hand corner flag in the SFC part of the field. Fornaroli runs into the defender who i believe is Grant. He jostles with the defender then promptly falls down dramatically which is when the referee, without hesitation, awards a free kick in his favour. Then we got Andy Harper cream his pants over how smart Fornaroli is to ‘force contact’ with Grant.

              If you watch that incident and can explain to me why Fornaroli’s was a free kick, yet Brosques wasnt, based on the two incidences only and having consistency in mind, then I wont be so aggrieved.

              • December 1st 2016 @ 11:44am
                Midfielder said | December 1st 2016 @ 11:44am | ! Report

                Similar to the first half when he holds the ball near half way and has an unmarked left sided player then drops his shoulder and turns into the defence and SFC get a yellow card… very clever…

              • Roar Guru

                December 1st 2016 @ 1:13pm
                Kaks said | December 1st 2016 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

                I wish people would stop calling it “clever” and start calling it for what it really is.

            • December 1st 2016 @ 11:47am
              punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 11:47am | ! Report

              I wonder if that was McClaren or Holman instead of Brosque in the last minute of the cup final & Brisbane was down 1 nil would you see it differently.

              • December 1st 2016 @ 12:03pm
                Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

                At the ground, live on tv, Roar going forward, I’d be screaming for a penalty and red card. No doubt.

                On watching it back on tv the first foul (maybe even the only foul) is Brosque and it’s outside the box. Correct call.

                It’s where fox are jetting us all down – they live the controversy so when refs get it wrong they show it over and over again; but when they’re right they don’t analyse the incident and instead talk up the controversy. It wasn’t a foul unless you want to penalise Brosque, even he’s saying that.

              • December 1st 2016 @ 12:21pm
                punter said | December 1st 2016 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

                Thank you!!!!

                I agree watching back on TV, not so blatant, but calling it not a foul, well still debatable.

              • Roar Guru

                December 1st 2016 @ 1:39pm
                Cameron Kellett said | December 1st 2016 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                Brosque was offside anyway.

    • December 1st 2016 @ 9:07am
      Nemesis said | December 1st 2016 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Forgot to mention how good the refs were last night. Absolutely spot on with decisions in a Cup final that could’ve turned ugly very early. The only blemish was the Brosque incident right at the end. Brosque clearly offside when Simon heads the ball, but the linesman missed it. Luckily ref didn’t get conned by Brosque’s stumble.

      • Roar Guru

        December 1st 2016 @ 1:41pm
        Cameron Kellett said | December 1st 2016 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        I’m surprised not many are mentioning this either, Nemesis.

        • December 1st 2016 @ 6:48pm
          Waz said | December 1st 2016 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

          That sums up the lack of analysis by our primary broadcaster who, this season, seem intent on amplifying or even creating “controversy”

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