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Sydney FC stretch narrow Melbourne Victory in Big Blue derby

12:37 SAST 2019/04/07
Steve Corica Sydney FC
The Sky Blues won it late but an impressive tactical display allowed them to trouble their opponents

Sydney FC went a long way to sealing the second-place position as they defeated their eternal rivals Melbourne Victory 2-1 courtesy of a Milos Ninkovic winner late in the game.

The match and post-game comments largely focused on the poor pitch of the Sydney Cricket Ground that was host to such a big fixture, with Victory manager Kevin Muscat strongly condemning the pitch. Players were slipping on the multiple layers of grass and Terry Antonis might have been victim to a serious injury because of it.

A pitch in such bad conditions can make it hard for a team to play their natural game because the ball bobbles around and it might make passing that bit more difficult. However, there was still some noticeable tactical decisions made in Saturday night's Big Blue derby from both managers.

Here are three tactical observations from Goal's A-League Match of the Week for Round 24...


Sydney's full-backs show no mercy

It's common knowledge that Sydney's full-backs play a crucial part in the way the team operates. Rhyan Grant on the right and Michael Zullo on the left provide a width so Anthony Caceres and Milos Ninkovic can come insides and overload the centre of the park.

This was the case in the Graham Arnold era, and it's continued this season even under Steve Corica's reign.

Muscat has struggled against attacking full-backs this season, with Perth Glory, Wellington Phoenix also playing in a similar manner and performances rarely convinced. His answer to this was to use two defensive full-backs in response that would rarely go forward but instead focus on simply stopping the attacks of their counterparts.

However, Deng looked uncomfortable from the start when Adam Le Fondre easily dribbled past him to get a shot that was denied by the crossbar, and both goals came down the right flank of Sydney where Grant ran rampant.

Muscat clearly misjudged the situation and it's no surprise that Sydney eventually found the winner. The issue was never that his wing-backs weren't defensive enough, it's that his midfielders don't track back to help his defenders.

Sydney's offensive defenders allow them to double team on both sides with Ninkovic and Zullo against Deng and Caceres and Grant taking on Broxham. There's only so much a defender can do when they're outnumbered, and they can hardly be put to blame when Keisuke Honda and Antonis further forward don't offer support.

Melbourne's narrow formation is exploited

Having defensive full-backs obviously mean that they can't provide width going forward, and therefore attacking from the wings must come through wingers.

However, the reigning champions fielded Honda and Antonis on in the diamond 4-4-2 formation which meant that there were absolutely no attacks coming wide.

The formation definitely plays to the strengths of Muscat's side as their only goal demonstrated. Honda came inwards from the right to produce a pass that cut open the Sydney defence and put Kosta Barbarouses through on goal.

For the most part though, since Victory's game is so narrow, the Sky Blues know exactly what to expect and can handle it accordingly. Melbourne's best spell in the second half came once the emerging winger Elvis Kamsoba came on to finally give the team some presence out wide.

Although Muscat has shown a reluctance to trust youth in the crucial clashes, Kamsoba in his short spurts has done more than enough to prove himself as a starter with some of the most dribbles for winger in the league per game. If results continue like this, Muscat will need Kamsoba to give his team some more variety when going forward.

Brosque over Gucci?

Although the win, as well as the poor pitch, might mean that Corica's lineup is glossed over, this is another big game where the Sydney manager has decided to pick Alex Brosque over Reza Ghoochannejhad.

It proved to be a mistake too. The 35-year-old was on a completely different wavelength to his team; he came inwards for passes when he should have been making runs behind the defence and his own passes regularly missed their target.

Corica has clearly indicated that for some reason he prefers the experience of Brosque over his Iranian striker's skills, but it could prove costly for his team. It's no coincidence that the team found a second goal only after Brosque went off for Reza

Now, with a match against Shanghai SIPG awaiting in the mid-week and Sydney's Asian Champions League hopes along with it, it's time Reza, or even marquee loanee Siem De Jong, gets a go before the ageing Brosque.