Keepers steal the Kewell-Emerton show

Melbourne Victory 0 Sydney FC 0

Roy Hay

The long awaited clash between Victory and Sydney with the Kewell and Emerton show as the main event kicked off at Etihad Stadium last night.

There were no goals but plenty of incident and controversy with a penalty saved, a player sent off and numerous close things at both ends of the ground.

Both Kewell and Emerton showed touches of the undoubted class advantage they have, but it is early days in terms of their contribution on the park.

But they did help draw 40,351 to see their debuts.

Harry Kewell lines up a cross

Nevertheless the players of the match were the two goalkeepers, Ante Covic for Victory and Liam Reddy for the Sydneysiders.

Victory lined up with Covic in goal, Fabio, Foschini, Vargas and Leijer at the back, Brebner, Celeski and Rojas in the middle and Kewell, Thompson and Allsopp in attack.

After an early flurry in which Victory created two reasonable openings, it was Sydney which took control of the first half, dominating possession and testing Victory’s new keeper with a succession of shots.

Mark Bridge had one effort which stung Covic’s hands and Scott Jamieson shaved the far post with a cross shot.

Victory looked for a free kick when three defenders converged on Thompson but the referee, Peter Green, would have none of it.

Rojas picked up a poor clearance by Liam Reddy and ran in on goal but his effort just slid wide of the near post.

Foschini was booked for a challenge on Terry Antonis, and when a Jamieson free kick was deflected to him it seemed that Bridge must score but Covic blocked the effort with his feet.

At the other end a testing Kewell cross resulted in Beauchamp heading over his own cross bar to safety.

Fabio had been excellent at full back but when he was caught on the wrong side of Bridge he pushed the striker over and the referee gave the clear penalty kick.

Emerton struck the ball along the ground but Covic got down brilliantly to push it clear.

Some said the Socceroo put the ball too close to him, but the keeper deserves all the credit for the speed of his reaction.

Rodrigo Vargas wins the ball from Mark Bridge

That should have lifted Victory but Bridge almost made amends with another fierce shot which Covic turned round the post.

A long ball out of defence was knocked down by Allsopp but Thompson put his shot wide.

Then on the stroke of half-time Rojas made another excellent run finishing with a fine cross which Harry Kewell should have buried, but his header was saved by Reddy at the expense of a fruitless corner.

In 55 minutes Billy Celeski was replaced by Leigh Broxham after Celeski came off worst in a clash in midfield.

A minute later Kewell wormed his way past two defenders but once again Reddy denied him.

Sydney's penalty box was crowded at times. Fifteen players are in this shot.

Michael Beauchamp was lucky to escape with a yellow card after a late and heavy challenge on Archie Thompson that forced the striker from the field a few minutes later.

Isaka Cernak replaced him.

The game boiled over after another incident in the 75 minute when Kewell was fouled. As he lined up the shot, mayhem broke out in the defensive all and Mark Bridge was sent off by the referee for striking a Victory player. Adrian Leijer and keeper Reddy were booked for retaliation in the aftermath of the initial skirmish.

Down to ten men, Sydney still threatened though they appeared more concerned to hold what they had as the legs got tired at the end.

A string of substitutions disrupted the last few minutes and Victory could not engineer a goal.

The match was summed up by another brilliant piece of skill by Victory substitute Jean Carlos Solorzano, on for Danny Allsopp, who seemed bound to score until Reddy pulled off another miraculous save on the line.

Both coaches were delighted with their team’s efforts and both said it had been a high quality, very testing game for both sides.

Brett Emerton was complimentary about the standard he found in his first competitive match in the A-league and said he enjoyed the ‘European’ atmosphere in the stadium.

Victory keeper Covic only arrived on Monday and expressed himself as pleased with his first-up performance.

Neither he nor Emerton were prepared to admit that they learned anything from any practice penalty kicks at Socceroo training, but this was the occasion when the keepers came out on top.

Match details

Melbourne Victory 0 Sydney FC 0

Date: 8 October 2011

Competition: A-League Round One

Venue: Etihad Stadium

Kick-off: 6.30 pm

Referee: Peter GREEN

Assistant Referees: Rod ALLEN and Hakan ANAZ

Fourth Official: Strebre DELOVSKI

Attendance: 40,351

Melbourne Victory

21 Ante COVIC;  2 Matthew FOSCHINI; 3  FABIO; 8 Grant BREBNER; 10 Archie THOMPSON (19 Isaka CERNAK  68’); 11 Marco ROJAS; 12 Rodrigo VARGAS; 14 Billy CELESKI (6 Leigh BROXHAM  55’); 18 Danny ALLSOPP (9 Jean Carlos SOLORZANO  80’); 22 Harry KEWELL: 23 Adrian LEIJER

Unused substitutes: 20 Lawrence THOMAS

Yellow Cards: Matthew FOSCHINI 29’; FABIO 33’; Adrian LEIJER 75’.

Red cards: Nil

Sydney FC

1 Liam REDDY; 3 Jamie COYNE (2 Sebastian RYALL 85’); 4 Pascal BOSSCHAART; 5 Michael BEAUCHAMP; 7 Brett EMERTON (6 Hiro MORIYASU 83’); 10 Nick CARLE (9 Bruno CAZARINE  90’); 12 Shannon COLE; 15 Terry MCFLYNN; 17 Terry ANTONIS; 19 Mark BRIDGE ; 21 Scott JAMIESON

Unused substitutes: 20 Ivan NECEVSKI

Yellow cards: 21 Scott JAMIESON   45+1’; Michael BEAUCHAMP 59’; Liam REDDY 75’; 10 Nick CARLE 90+1’

Red card: 19 Mark BRIDGE 75’.

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