Melbourne City FC have beaten Sydney FC with a sucker punch, the 1-0 result ending the Sky Blues unbeaten run since the Asian Cup at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
James Brown scored his first goal for Melbourne City as the visitors consolidated sixth place on the ladder in the opening match of #EraseRacism Round.
Going into the clash Graham Arnold named an unchanged line-up from the side that put five past Brisbane at the same ground five days ago, while John van’t Schip was without attackers Josh Kennedy (hip) and Harry Novillo (illness).
It was an inauspicious start from the home side, with a pinpoint cross from Aaron Mooy finding Jonatan Germano unmarked at the near post. The midfielder had scored in his last two appearances against the Sky Blues but was wasteful with his finish.
That seemed to awaken the Sky Blues and they created the best chance of the opening stanza shortly after when Marc Janko timed his run onto a through-ball from Alex Brosque. Some neat foot-work from the tall Austrian saw him one-on-one with goalkeeper Tando Velaphi but he could only fire his shot into the near post.
City went close to opening the scoring on the cusp of half-time with a piece of improvisation from Robert Koren. The City marquee took a neat touch and volleyed towards goal but Vedran Janjetovic was up to the task, getting a glove on the ball as it hit the cross-bar and went out of play.
Sydney went looking for a winner in the second-half, with Smeltz, Ibini and Janko all having chances to give their side the lead but it was City that made the most of their opportunity to go five points clear in sixth.
James Brown (81′) A loose ball in midfield was controlled by Aaron Mooy with the recalled Socceroo taking a clever touch before providing an incisive pass for James Brown. Brown was able to round Janjetovic in the box before calming slotting into an empty net to register his first goal for Melbourne City.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Given the recent run of results, to come to Sydney and get away with three points I think we’ve done pretty well. We’ve been working on it (defence) pretty hard during the week, we knew what we had to do and I think the boys did very well.” – City midfielder James Brown
“Yeah it’s a tough one to take, I thought we controlled the game, played very well, had chances but it just wasn’t to be tonight. It just wasn’t our night…they got a sucker punch against the run of the play and that was the result tonight I guess.” – Sydney FC skipper Alex Brosque
Marc Janko powered onto a long-ball shortly before half-time, with his touch unable to bring the ball under control. The ball was going out for a goal-kick but an unnecessary challenge from Patrick Kisnorbo brought the striker down in the box. Sydney FC appealed for a penalty but their shouts were waved away by the referee.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
– Sydney FC had scored 25 goals in their last seven appearances but couldn’t find the back of the net in their penultimate home game of the regular season.
– The Sky Blues have not led the league outright since Valentines Day 2010 and will have to wait a little longer after falling at home.
– This was the first time in the last eight encounters Melbourne City had kept a cleansheet against the Sky Blues.
– The three points is City’s first away win in their last six matches.
A long ball sent Alex Brosque clear down the left flank in the second half, with the wily veteran getting the better of the chasing City defence. His cross saw Bernie Ibini attempt an athletic bicycle kick which was easily dealt with by Velaphi.
Defender Kew Jaliens took an accidental knock from the ambitious shot by Ibini, while Alex Brosque also needed treatment after a heavy challenge in the lead-up.
Melbourne City were without attackers Josh Kennedy (hip) and Harry Novillo (illness) who should both be available next weekend.
Questions marks remain over the fitness of Terry Antonis who trained this week but is struggling with a knee complaint ahead of Olyroos duty.
THE FINAL WORD
Melbourne City revived their finals hopes with a much needed three points on the road, while Graham Arnold will not be happy with the way his side ended their unbeaten run.
The Sky Blues will be left to rue their missed chances after they hit the post in each half through Marc Janko and Bernie Ibini, while City also hit the cross-bar on the stroke of half-time through Robert Koren.
Both coaches will already be looking to next week’s blockbuster clashes, with Sydney FC travelling to Wellington to face the league leaders and John van’t Schip side hosting the Roar in what shapes as a pivotal clash in the race for the last finals spot.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Jurman, Petkovic, Gersbach, Tavares (Stambolziev 84′), Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Naumoff (Smeltz 61′), Janko
Melbourne City FC: Velaphi, Retre (Symeoy 75′), Kisnorbo, Jaliens, Clisby, Germano (Murdocca 73′), Mooy, Paartalu, Koren, Dugandzic (Ramsay 71), Brown,
Scorers: Brown 81′
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Paulo Retre (28′); Kew Jaliens (34′); Marc Janko (82′) Velaphi (87′)
Conditions: 22C, Cold, Windy
Attendance: 11,638 @ Allianz Stadium