A-League analysis: How Sydney FC's attack sparkled against Adelaide

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Gucci was key as Sydney won an intriguing tactical battle

Sydney FC were able to retain second spot in the A-League as they defeated finals contenders Adelaide United 2-0 on Friday night at Leichhardt Oval.

Adelaide's failure to win means they have now gone without victory in their past four games and manager Marco Kurz seemed unable to respond to the tactical maneuvers of his counterpart, Steve Corica, throughout the match.

The game's main advantages were gained in the midfield, with Corica getting the best out of his team while Kurz's side was unable to do the same. To make matters worse, Sydney FC's new striker Reza Ghoochannejhad ran the show and Adelaide's defenders had no answers.

Here are three tactical observations from Goal's A-League Match of the Week for Round 21...


Advanced forwards drop into midfield


Sydney v Adelaide

Although Sydney's formation initially started as a 4-3-2-1, their advanced midfielders, marquee man Milos Ninkovic and Reza both dropped deep into midfield to overload sections of the midfield and create a numerical advantage.

Especially when Reza came into midfield, it created a situation where, because of the advanced full-backs employed by Corica, there would be four players available for a pass in a zone where Adelaide only had two.

What usually happens when players run deep is that there is a defender tracking them and moving out of position, however, they were reluctant to do so in this match which meant that the midfield was dominated by Sky Blue shirts.

After finding plenty of space in midfield Reza and Ninkovic would progress into deeper positions when the ball is in attacking spaces. Sydney's first goal came in exactly this fashion as Reza started the play from deep before making a run into the box to finish off the play.

Ninkovic did plenty of this on the other side as well where he would sometimes be the deepest midfielder and try to dictate play rather than face pressure from defenders higher up the pitch.

Their heatmaps show this with, with Ninkovic's (top) showing that he collected possession very deep from near the box, while Reza (bottom) was a bit further forward but still in quite a deep possession.

Sydney FC heatmapSydney FC heatmap


Adelaide fail out wide


Adelaide United

Since Sydney's full-backs are the players that provide width in their team, they're required to relentlessly push up and down their side of the field. However, when they're in advanced positions and their team loses possession, Adelaide had opportunities to counter.

The players that moved forward with the ball were seldom able to make the right decision though and they would frequently hesitate when encountered with too many options.

When transitioning into attack, the Adelaide forwards were too slow with moving the ball forward and their passes would be regularly intercepted if they weren't tackled by a chasing Sydney shirt.

Especially out wide, there were plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the areas that full-backs Rhyan Grant and Michael Zullo left in behind, and although their midfielders did a good job in covering for them, Adelaide should have done better in exploiting the clear weakness.

Where the Sky Blues were ruthless in their decision making in the final third, the Reds' inability to decide on which way to go cost them dearly.


Reza makes everything Gucci


Reza Ghoochannejhad Sydney FC

When Reza first moved to Sydney, there were some doubts about whether he could really be the right signing to take the weight off of Adam Le Fondre's shoulder up front, as he was not much of a prolific scorer in Cyprus.

'Gucci' has gradually gotten more comfortable with playing in a new league and this performance in front of The Cove was a sign that the Iranian international is ready to run the show.

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Along with his first goal for the Sky Blues, Reza hit the post and was generally creating plenty of chances as he pulled the strings from the deeper position. He was almost unplayable by the Adelaide defenders who could not figure out how to contain the Iranian as he was both playmaker and finisher.

The former APOEL striker seems to be enjoying his role as a deep-lying forward under Corica and if he continues performing like this in their Asian Champions League campaign - which Sydney begin in a couple of days - he will definitely make himself a fan favourite very quickly.

Shabab Hossain is an up-and-coming young football journalist. You can view his blog here.

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