A-League: Melbourne City v Sydney FC – live!

Jonathan Howcroft on 1 August 2020

76 mins: Noone takes up a great position on the left, then cuts inside to cross with his right, a decision that suggests he’s unaware that his right foot seems only useful for standing on. City regather possession though and Atkinson forces yet another corner on this glory night for the set-piece.

Noone takes it (left-footed), headed away easily.

74 mins: Of all City’s talented youngsters I like Metcalfe the most right now, and early after his introduction he feeds Maclaren with a terrific left-footed pass, but the striker’s header was straight at Redmayne. He was offside for good measure. Now he’s been subbed for Najjar.

72 mins: Sydney begin the fightback patiently, earning a corner on the left, but the 14th set piece of its type of the night is as effective as the previous 13.

Should be worried about Sydney’s form since the restart? Arguably second best against Wellington and Newcastle, and now 2-0 down here.

70 mins: Double sub for City: Atkinson and Metcalfe for Luna and Wales.

GOAL! Melbourne City 2-0 Sydney FC (Maclaren 68)

City double their lead, and it’s another shocking error from Sydney FC. Nothing happening in general play but Ryan McGowan falls asleep and isn’t alert to Jamie Maclaren lurking. The Socceroo picks the defender’s pocket, dashes the 20m or so towards goal, holding off two defenders, then dinks with magical finesse beyond Redmayne. That was a world class striker’s finish.

Maclaren in the lead for the golden boot. City on their way to controlling second place.

66 mins: Sydney are back on the ball, Ninkovic dictating terms in midfield, but after a hint of space City have swarmed back to close down all avenues to goal. This could be the pattern for the next 25 or so minutes.

Double sub for Sydney. Baumjohann and Barbarouses for Ivanovic and Buhagiar.

63 mins: City have slowed the tempo after that raid from Sydney. Do they have the nous to manage their 1-0 lead?

61 mins: Sydney should equalise immediately! Excellent run from Barbarouses down the middle, but the move looks to have ended when Le Fondre gets the ball stuck under his feet, however, the Englishman does well to spin and dig out a cross that Barbarouses butchers at the far post when a goal was begging. A tremendous crap 90s footy scramble ensues before City smuggle the ball away for a corner.

Shortly afterwards a dangerous low cross from the right causes another scramble in City’s box that they’re fortunate to clear. This one features Wales doing some breakdancing to avoid conceding a handball while face down on the turf.

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GOAL! Melbourne City 1-0 Sydney FC (Noone 57)

City open the scoring, and they have former man Paolo Retre to thank. A long diagonal pass from right to left should be cut out by the Sydney fullback, but he doesn’t intercept and the onrushing Craig Noone nips in ahead of Andrew Redmayne to steer the ball into the unguarded net.

City probably deserved a goal in the first half. Retre probably should have been hooked at half-time.

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57 mins: Free-kick in a dangerous area for Sydney FC but Baumjohann’s cross is headed behind for a corner, and the following set-piece, the umpteenth corner of the night, does not carry any menace.

55 mins: Berenguer again looks dangerous through the middle but Luna can’t control his ball into feet on the edge of the box. Sydney respond with about two minutes of possession, passing the ball left and right like Holland in the opening 90 seconds of the 1974 World Cup Final. Guess how it ends... that’s right, with a hopeful cross from the left that comes to nought. Better than a West German World Cup I guess.

52 mins: Sydney’s turn to cross from the left this time. City’s defence happy to head behind for a corner. After such neat build-up play from both teams, quite why they’re all so keen to slap over hopeful balls seems a bit daft.

50 mins: Berenguer finds space and glides forward with purpose before feeding Noone on the left. The City player then swings another aimless ball into the box, targeting the diminutive Maclaren marked by the twin towers of Wilkinson and McGowan. Seems like a low percentage strategy. Anyhow, Jamieson feeds on the scraps but his right-footed thwack from outside the area never threatens Redmayne’s clean sheet.

City really need to be cuter in the final third.

48 mins: First chance of the half to Sydney. City make a mess of clearing a Baumjohann cross. Brattan shows impudent skill on the edge of the box to control the looping ball, beat his man, then hammer a volley toward goal that Glover has to push over his bar.

47 mins: A scrappy midfield tussle at the start of the second half.

All about that final ball Michael, a lot to like otherwise.

The second half is underway. I am still very distracted/confused.

Dear lord, now I’ve stumbled across Brian Kilcline getting his back waxed for Christmas 2009. The internet is amazing.

Is this THE Brian Kilcline?

Ok, so I don’t know about you, but when I hear Redmayne’s name called, it makes me think of red/mane and the sight of some marauding Norseman charging into battle. Personified, that would be FA Cup winning captain Brian Kilcline, who was the subject of this belting feature from Stuart James a couple of years ago. With the FA Cup final only hours away, this is worth a few minutes of your time.

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Half-time: Melbourne City 0-0 Sydney FC

An entertaining end-to-end half of football ends goalless. Much of that is down to Andrew Redmayne, who has shone in Sydney’s goal, but more owes to Melbourne City’s inability to fashion a precise final ball despite bags of possession and transitional opportunities in their final third.

Craig Noone
Craig Noone has a pop. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

44 mins: Another City attacking transition, another ball spread wide (this time to the right), another cross to nobody (from Wales), only this time put behind by a scrambling Retre for a corner.

And from this one, Maclaren probably should score. Delbridge wins the pack header and nods it down to his #9 on the edge of the six-yard box but the poacher can’t react quickly enough to steer the ball into the net.

43 mins: Again City look a million bucks in the build-up and chump change with the final ball. Berenguer’s trickery set-up a cross-field move that ended with Noone cutting inside from the right onto his left foot, but his cross curls straight into Redmayne’s gloves.

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40 mins: Retre’s uncomfortable night gets worse. He’s booked for a challenge on Noone. The former City man will be lucky to play the full 90 tonight.

39 mins: Sydney enjoy a couple of corners in quick succession, but they come to nought. From the latter Wales and Maclaren burst quickly but not for the first time the decision making at the final moment leaves a lot to be desired.

Just as an aside, Berenguer has been excellent for City. His vision and weight of pass have been instrumental in many moves I have been unable to describe in sufficient detail.

37 mins: End to end at ANZ Stadium. First Sydney almost unlock the City defence after Brattan’s superb long pass out wide to King sets a chain of possession in motion that almost culminated in a shot on goal. City’s defence smuggled the ball away and went down the other end at pace but Wales’ final ball was nearer Redmayne than Maclaren.

35 mins: Delbridge can occasionally look like an oil tanker trying to turn out of trouble, and the American gets caught in possession on halfway but Sydney cannot capitalise.

33 mins: REDMAYNE! BOSS MODE. Excellent, patient build-up from City’s forwards until a ricochet goes Luna’s way as he drives towards the box. Bursting to get to the loose ball ahead of Sydney’s keeper Luna dinks a right-footed effort that just clips Redmayne’s frame and drifts behind for a sixth corner.

30 mins: General play has been scrappy for the past ten minutes or so. Neither midfield has been able to establish a tempo without conceding possession. This despite the pitch looking huge. It may be an optical illusion, it may be that both defences are terrified of the pace of the opposing attackers and so defending well behind their midfields, but the outcome is plenty of room for both sides to play.

27 mins: Is there a better redemption story in the A-League than Andrew Redmayne? He was not good enough at Melbourne City and often looked out of his depth at the highest level despite cycling through a number of A-League clubs, before John Crawley worked his magic, upgrading him into the league’s best and a Socceroo squad member.

25 mins: REDMAYNE AGAIN! This time more by luck than judgement. Turnover in midfield allows City to attack down the left. The cross comes over and Luna does well to pressure the clearing header, making it travel only as far as Berenguer, who shoots crisply, only for a wrong-footed Redmayne to deflect the ball wide.

23 mins: The set-piece is turned behind for a corner, which begets another corner, that causes a modicum of anxiety in Sydney’s box before bouncing off the back of Wales and out for a goal kick.

22 mins: Free-kick to City in a dangerous area to the left of the box after Retre checked Jamieson’s overlap. Retre has started poorly at right-back - in and out of possession - and that follows an outing against Newcastle where he gave the ball away a few times in dangerous areas when operating in midfield.

19 mins: It’ll be interesting if either coach instructs their side to adopt a low block to counter the movement of the other. City’s defence in particular is looking increasingly vulnerable as Sydney’s midfielders run with the ball at pace, linking well with Le Fondre and Barbarouses.

The latest of those runs is ended by a foul, and from the resulting free-kick into the box a loose McGowan can’t steer his shot beyond the well placed Glover.

17 mins: Both sides are set up to attack in transition and with the game starting so open it’s working in favour of both creative units. This time it’s Sydney’s turn to go forward, and they zip the ball about beautifully until there’s a crossing opportunity on th eleft, but the delivery is cut out by one of the three giant centre-halves.

15 mins: ANOTHER excellent save from Redmayne, this time from Noone, who volleyed from the edge of the box after the ball landed in his favour following a contested header. Redmayne flew high to his left to fingertip the ball behind for a corner.

13 mins: Redmayne has to react to get down quickly at his near post after Maclaren again found space to fire off a shot, this time a left-footed snapshot after being fed through on the left of the penalty area by Berenguer. Excellent save.

11 mins: Windbichler is booked for bringing down a barnstorming Baumjohann, who was surging through the middle of ANZ Stadium at pace. His dribble, not his first of the night, came after more lovely interplay involving Sydney’s quicksilver front two of Le Fondre and Barbarouses.

Brattan wellies the free-kick miles wide.

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9 mins: City go down the other end and Wales, who has started promisingly, despite an absurd haircut (superbly described as like A Flock of Seagulls by Andy Harper) forces a corner. The routine is neat but Sydney deal with the danger.

Lachie Wales’ mood board.

8 mins: Flag up against Ninkovic as he pulls the trigger and rattles the crossbar after a delightful move from Sydney FC, their array of talented forwards all involved in a nimble build-up on the edge of the City box after space was opened up down the right.

6 mins: There are questions being asked on TV about the floodlights not being fully operational at ANZ Stadium. Unfortunately that’s one problem that cannot be solved by liberal application of gaffer tape. #ALeaguethings

4 mins: After Baumjohann almost dribbled into a dangerous spot at one end, Wales skipped into space at the other before Redmayne plucked out his cross with ease.

It’s a nice bright and brisk opening as we’ve come to expect since the restart. I am 100% in the A-League in winter camp, and this is partly why, the tempo is miles better.

2 mins: Early chance for Maclaren, who found space on the edge of the six-yard box, but he planted his free header straight at Redmayne after Luna stood up a delightful cross from the right.

On Luna, I reckon he’s playing as a right wingback, with City operating with the three big centre-halves rather than the flat four as listed on their social media.

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Peeeeeeppppp!

Underway at ANZ Stadium...

The TV cameras just panned to Erick Mombaerts, sat on his Bunnings chair, and he looks every inch a Guy Ritchie baddie in his baseball cap, shades, and puffa jacket.

Despite the match taking place in western Sydney, Melbourne City are the home team, so they will be decked in sky blue tonight, Sydney FC are in their change strip of charcoal.

There’s plenty of shared IP amongst these teams, not least in midfield, where former City schemers Brattan and Caceres come up against Sky Blue title winner Josh Brillante.

Sydney also boast former City representatives Andrew Redmayne, Alex Wilkinson, Michael Zullo and Retre among their current squad while the premiers are one of the five A-League teams to have employed City skipper Scott Jamieson.

#ALeaguethings

Sydney FC XI

Steve Corica hasn’t shuffled his pack as much as might have been expected. Of note, Anthony Caceres has dropped into the base of midfield alongside Luke Brattan, with Paolo Retre shifting to right back. The opposite flank will be guarded by Joel King, selected ahead of Michael Zullo.

As with any Sydney FC fixture, Milos Ninkovic deserves singling out. The competition’s best player is a joy to watch and his ability to find space between the lines has tormented Melbourne City in recent seasons.

Melbourne City XI

Erick Mombaerts has a near full squad to pick from, and with that luxury he has opted for experience over youth with a starting XI full of his most senior bodies, the only exception being Lachie Wales’ inclusion as the replacement for Susaeta. City’s surfeit of central defenders means Harrison Delbridge lines up at right fullback.

Looks a strong, balanced line-up, with Florin Berenguer the key man for mine. He links City’s defence and attack and after a slow first season grew into his second campaign, before the hiatus. If he can hit top form City will be in the mix.

Speaking of Fox Sports, Simon Hill has been a breath of fresh air since he was unshackled by his former employers, and he has set the agenda again with his latest column on the state of the Australian game.

After Fox Sports continued their, how to put it politely... underwhelming coverage of the A-League since the restart, it was inevitable David Squires would step in and lighten the mood.

Preamble

Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the top-of-the-table A-League clash between Melbourne City and Sydney FC. We’ll be underway at ANZ Stadium around 5pm.

This may be one versus two on paper, but with Sydney FC already wrapping up the premiers plate the jeopardy is all with second-placed Melbourne City.

Erick Mombaerts’ side are level on points (40) and goal difference (+8) with Wellington Phoenix, and two points ahead of fourth-placed Brisbane Roar. However, City have three matches to play, their rivals only two, so tonight provides a golden opportunity for the competition’s great underachievers to put daylight between them and the chasing pack in the race for the runners-up spot. It may sound like I’m labouring over a pyrrhic victory, but six previous runners-up have gone to become A-League champions, while only once has the toilet seat been lifted by a side outside the top two after the home and away portion of the campaign.

City have been boosted by the faltering form of their rivals since the restart, meaning their destiny is in their own hands. Perth Glory have collected just three out of nine points this month, Roar three from six, and Phoenix just four from 12. That said, City match up poorly against the Sky Blues, losing eight of their past nine against the defending champions, and they also struggle outside Victoria, winning only two of their last seven matches outside their home state.

With many clubs offering younger players opportunities since the season resumed, it will be interesting to see if Mombaerts goes down that path. City have long boasted an enviable array of young talent without always maximising their potential. At least one spot has opened up in the side’s best XI with Spanish forward Markel Susaeta not returning after the hiatus.

One player guaranteed a start is sharpshooter Jamie Maclaren. The Socceroo has found the back of the net 18 times his season so far, placing him level with Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre in the race for the Golden Boot. That pair are three ahead of Besart Berisha.

What about Sydney FC? For Steve Corica’s side it’s now all about timing their run for the finals. Expect plenty of squad rotation over their remaining four matches so that they’re cherry ripe by the playoffs. Despite wrapping up the premiers plate soon after the return to action, Sydney have performed below their best, seeing both Phoenix and Newcastle Jets enjoy the better of their past two matches. Corica will not want to stumble into the postseason in questionable form.

That’s enough from me for now. If you want to get in touch at any point, you can find me on Twitter or by email.

One way or the other, it’s going to be a sky blue day.

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