Sunday, March 11, 2007

AFC Champions League Matchweek 1

This week saw Australian football history made with Sydney FC and Adelaide United being the first Australian clubs to represent the country in Asia’s premier club competition.

Adelaide United, after all the turmoil of the sacking of Kosmina and the 6-0 loss in Melbourne in the A-League grand final, put up a good fight at home to Shandong Luneng but just couldn’t put one into the back of the oppositions net. Putting on in their own net however proved to be more their thing and they went down 1-0 courtesy of a Michael Valkanis own goal. By all means they were not embarrassed and could have easily snatched a winner towards the end. All looked good for Sydney in the following match!

Going into the match I would have been stoked with a draw. Traveling away from home to a tough place like China in the middle of winter is something completely new for domestic sides. Traveling across the country to Perth and playing in front of a hostile “Shed” doesn’t really live up to the intimidation factor of going to Shanghai and playing in front of the die hard “Blue Devils.”

Sydney were lucky in the fact that their opponents were the recent merger of two Shanghai clubs and team harmony was greatly lacking both on and off the pitch. The fans actually booed and hissed their own players if they came from the rival club within the merger. It was a good tactic by Culina to come out early and attack from the outset because if Shanghai had have gotten on a roll then the crowd would not have turned on them.

Sydney’s formation was almost the same as how they lined up under Butcher but the tactics and way they played was like watching a whole new team. Talay was used in a much more forward role, even drifting out wide and looking dangerous linking up with the attacking wide players of Brosque and Carney. Where both players looked disinterested and poor under Butcher they now looked revitalised and interested in playing football again. Even Zdrilic put the effort in and was always trying to get involved in the play.

The defense looked strong with Rudan and Fyfe playing centrally and Middleby and Hyphen as the wide defenders. Neither played a real wingback role which I was happy to see and the attacks all came through midfield and then the attacking wide players. Too many times last season I complained about the rubbish service that Ceccoli and Fyfe gave and I was stoked to see that tactic abandoned for now.

As for the goals all I can say is WOW. Great chip or Carney to Corica for a deft little lob over the keeper and a 25 yard screamer from Talay to top it off. Brosque should have made it 3-0 right on the stroke of half time but hit the post after being 1 on 1 with the keeper. Sydney conceded a late goal to make it 2-1 and thats how it finished. Excellent result all round and 3 points on the road!

I don’t want to rate the performance and coaching style of Culina too highly yet as the opposition are going through a crisis of their own but I am now VERY optimisitic for the future and can’t wait for Uruwa to come to Sydney. I just hope the Sydney public realise just how massive this game is and come out and support the lads.