Unlucky Sydney slips against Adelaide

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Sydney FC slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Adelaide United on Saturday night; wasting another opportunity to go clear at the top of the A-League to leave their minor premiership rivals with the advantage as the season enters its final few rounds.

Sydney had all the chances in a first half void of any real fluidity, with both sides struggling to settle in trying conditions – the rain, having already brought down half of the Easter Show and washed out the first day of the autumn races across the road at Randwick, refused to lift for the 11,585 people who nonetheless packed into the undercover strip of seats at the top of the stands.With the opportunity to go top of the ladder – temporarily, at least – should they win, Sydney asserted themselves on the game almost immediately; Bernie Ibini skipping past Osama Malik on the right and crossing for Janko, who floated his header past the far post.

Both sides exchanged corners, then everything went quiet for a while. “This is boring!” yelled a woman in the stands, and she wasn’t wrong.

Water fell from the sky, players skipped passes across a greasy surface, and journalists made half-arsed attempts to write jokes about diving in the rain before giving up and doing something about the Sky Blues and the blanket cloud above instead  – things happened in the first 15 minutes, sure, but they were mostly rain-related.

Where Ibini was good for Sydney, Eugene Galekovic was better in the Adelaide goal: Alex Brosque should have scored from an Ibini cross but his effort was saved by the sprawling goalkeeper at close range, who probably didn’t know much about the shot to begin with.

Around the half hour mark Adelaide finally wrested some possession from their opponents and looked to threaten themselves, but were unable to find the angle for a shot, and the momentum quickly swung back in favour of the home side.

As the half came to an end Brosque burst through on goal but was cut down by Nigel Boogaard as he chased back to cover – the referee might have awarded a red card had Brosque taken another touch to run clear, but showed Boogaard a yellow instead, having judged him not to be the last defender.

Galekovic closed out the first period with a few punched clearances from Sydney corners, and halftime came and went; Sydney with the more obvious opportunities to open the scoring – Adelaide, meanwhile, perhaps interestingly or perhaps not, made history by becoming the first side to fail to register a shot on target in the first half of an A-League match.

The home side picked up in the second half where they left off in the first, after Vedran Janjetovic had seen off a few early Adelaide efforts, and Sydney had the ball in the back of the net five minutes after the break after Janko flicked on a free kick from Dimitrijevic, but the play was correctly called back for offside.

Sydney continued to pile on the pressure, but Galekovic was proving near-unbeatable between the posts; blocking a shot at close range from Naumoff, and following up a few minutes later with another save – arguably his best of the night – from a Brosque volley.

Perhaps sensing the fragility of the deadlock, Adelaide began to come into the game somewhat as the hour passed but were frustrated in their attempts to go forward; the struggle pronounced in the absence of playmaker Marcelo Carrusca.

As in the first half, Sydney were soon back in the ascendency, before something strange happened– Adelaide scored; the ball breaking to Awer Mabil who curled his shot into the far post from the edge of the box to give his side an unlikely lead.

The Sydney crowd fell silent – they, like anyone who had read a weather report, had surely thought a 0-0 draw would be the worst-case scenario here.

Adelaide slowed the match to see out five minutes of injury time, and the final whistle brought on a torrent of boos.

Against another goalkeeper on another night, Sydney might have won this match by the end of the first half, but that’s not how football works, and the visitors escaped with their win to go top of the league (temporarily, anyway).

Sydney will look to revive any hopes of taking out the minor premiership on Friday night in Perth, while Adelaide head home to take on Brisbane Roar, who continued their hunt for finals football on Thursday with a 6-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners.

Sydney FC: 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC, 2. Seb RYALL, 5. Matt JURMAN, 6. Nikola PETKOVIC, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 11. Bernie IBINI, 13. Christopher NAUMOFF (34. Robert STAMBOLZIEV 66’), 14. Alex BROSQUE, 21. Marc JANKO (29. George BLACKWOOD 77’), 26. Jacques FATY, 27. Mickael TAVARES (23. Rhyan GRANT 62’)

Adelaide United: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC, 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Nigel BOOGAARD, 4. Dylan MCGOWAN, 5. Osama MALIK, 8. ISAIAS, 9. Sergio CIRIO, 11. Bruce DJITE, 16. Craig GOODWIN (19. Miguel PALANCA 67’), 18. James JEGGO, 24. Bruce KAMAU (17. Awer MABIL 59’)( 14. Cameron WATSON 84’)

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