Victory and Sydney fight to a standstill in front of record crowd

Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 9 December 2006, p. 100.

Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC fought each other to a standstill in a high quality but goalless draw in Round 16 of the A-League at Telstra Dome last night.

In front of the biggest crowd of the season and the largest attendance at a club match in Australia, 50,333 the atmosphere was worthy of the classic arm-wrestle it turned out to be.

As with all the Melbourne-Sydney derbies it was a tough, physical struggle, particularly in midfield where both sides denied their immediate opponents room to turn.

Socceroo David Carney was booked after only 3 minutes for a trip on Rodrigo Vargas as the Melbourne defender tried to break away.

Victory played some excellent one-touch high speed football in the early stages but could not find the front runners with the through balls. The angles of the diagonal balls were wrong and they either ran through to the keeper or over the sidelines.

Brazilian Alessandro twice tried to prise open the defence with pure skill but to no effect.

Sydney had two of the clearest openings of the first half, the first when Robbie Middleby got away down the right and his cross was headed over the bar by David Carney.

Then Carney put the ball into the box following a corner kick only for Socceroo Mark Milligan to head over the top.

Alessandro took a short pass from Archie Thomson and scampered away down the left. He finished with a low cross which eluded keeper Clint Bolton initially but after colliding with defender Alvin Ceccoli he managed to regain possession.

In the 36th minute, Melbourne skipper Kevin Muscat drove in a free kick but it was always rising.

During stoppage time just before the interval Archie Thomson was sent clear by a long ball from Muscat.

Twice the Socceroo striker skinned defenders and had his first shot blocked while the second just flew over the bar with Bolton beaten.

The first half was highly entertaining and competitive but it ended goalless.

Six minutes into the second half, coach Ernie Merrick took off Alessandro and replaced him with Adrian Caceres.

The substitute was immediately in the action setting Thomson off on a run which ended with a cross-shot that Daniel Allsopp just could not reach as he crashed into the net himself.

Thomson’s next run was even more impressive as he skinned three defenders and shot only centimetres wide of Bolton’s far post.

Adrian Leijer came up from the back to make a brilliant interception which resulted in another Victory attack but the result was a corner-kick.

Sydney was reduced to counterattacking and while they threatened several times they were unable to break down the Victory defence in which Leijer and Rodrigo Vargas were exceptional.

Though the fans, like both coaches, might have regretted the absence of goals they could not complain about the quality of the play or the commitment of both sides.

Ernie Merrick said, ‘I am happy with the result in that  we keep the same distance between one and two but I have to say I would have loved our team to score a goal in front of such a big crowd.’

Sydney coach Terry Butcher said he thought the game was flat, because that is what his plan was since his team had scored but lost in last two games against the Victory. ‘My job is to win football matches and then perhaps entertain,’ he said.

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