Sydney FC and Adelaide United played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Referee Daniel Elder attracted controversy for sending Hiroshi Ibusuki for an early shower after the Japanese forward’s challenge on Anthony Caceres went wrong.
It was open start to the game, both sides showing attacking intent and forcing Joe Gauci and Andrew Redmayne into action within the first five minutes.
It didn’t take long for Adelaide to open the scoring.
Sydney’s defence made it far too easy for Ryan Kitto, the Reds left-back easily making his way through and and finishing from close range, leaving Redmayne with no chance.
The visitors continued to pepper Redmayne’s goal, the Socceroo making multiple good saves to keep it at 1-0.
Adam Le Fondre was forced off through injury in the 20th minute, Steve Corica placing his faith in Patrick Wood to replace the Englishman.
Sydney continued to look for their wide men, Robert Mak and Joe Lolley, who were looking dangerous when given even half a yard by the Adelaide defence.
Chasing after the ball after a loose first touch, Hiroshi Ibusuki slid in and collected Anthony Caceres. The challenged looked somewhat innocuous at first, but replays showed the striker’s studs over the ball, giving referee Daniel Elder a big decision to make. His initial call was a red card, and after a VAR check Ibusuki had to go.
The Reds would now have to play the remaining 50 minutes with 10 men.
It was the perfect start to the second half for the Sky Blues with Joe Lolley netting for the second week in a row to level the scores. The Englishman played a give-and-go with Caceres before finishing with aplomb past Gauci’s outstretched left arm.
Before long the Sky Blues were ahead, Patrick Wood getting perhaps the easiest goal of his career after Rhyan Grant’s cushioned header set him up perfectly for the tap-in.
The whole complexion of the contest had changed in just five second-half minutes, and with the Reds down a man, it seemed like a huge mountain to climb.
Shortly after, however, Adelaide were right back in it through a familiar face for the home fans. Harry van der Saag got in behind the Sydney defence and made no mistake with his header from close range.
Scores level again and game on at Allianz.
Corica then went to his bench, bringing on Adrian Segecic and Max Burgess to replace Robert Mak and Patrick Yazbek respectively, giving both fringe players an opportunity to impress.
Wood had a big chance, going one-on-one with Gauci but the Adelaide shot-stopper made himself big, keeping his side on level terms.
Sydney continued to control possession but failed to really threaten the Adelaide defence. The Reds repelled set piece after set piece with little trouble.
Despite playing with a man advantage for the majority of the game, the Sky Blues failed to make it count and had to settle for a point.
Was it a red?
Daniel Elder immediately gave Ibusuki a red card and the VAR was happy with the call. The home crowd loved it but you can see the reaction from the Reds above – fair to say that they didn’t quite see eye to eye with the referee.
On the Network Ten broadcast, however, former Sydney FC forward Alex Brosque called it “one of the worst red card decisions I’ve ever seen”. There were plenty of question marks to be seen on social media too.
It’s up to the fans at home to have their say, but by whatever criteria Elder used, it’s got to be on the lower end of the spectrum as far as send-offs go.
Sydney back up Big Blue crowd
Despite the miserable weather, Sydney FC managed a crowd of over 21,000 for their return to Allianz Stadium in the Big Blue.
In today’s family-friendly 3pm time slot, a healthy contingent of Sky Blues made their way to Moore Park to witness an action-packed 90 minutes. It’s a good result, perhaps not great, but with Sky Blues playing an entertaining, attacking style and the lingering shiny new stadium bump, four-figure attendances should be the norm throughout the season.
The Cove, heaving with almost three full bays of active support in Round 1, managed to fill Bay 23 but the adjoining bays were conspicuously less populated.
We’ve already seen awful attendances at AAMI Park and Campbelltown Stadium so far this season, and Sydney – along with their Western Sydney and Melbourne Victory – must carry their weight to ensure two or three clubs don’t absolutely crater the league average.
Makeshift Sky Blues CB pairing looking shaky
The loss of both Alex Wilkinson and Jack Rodwell so early in the season has hardly been ideal for Steve Corica. It seems the Sydney manger’s preferred pairing is now James Donachie partnering the very raw Aaron Gurd in the heart of defence.
The problem is that makes Sydney’s centre-back pairing one of the weakest in the A-League, and they are now just one injury away from a full-blown defensive crisis. Neither Rhyan Grant or Diego Caballo have much experience playing there and there’s no one within the Sydney FC system ready to step up to professional football at a week’s notice.
Adelaide’s first goal today was an incredibly soft one to concede, Kitto simply gliding through the backline as if they weren’t even there.
Questions must also be asked of Diego Caballo, who allowed van der Saag to ghost in behind him to level the game.
As a collective backline it is concerning as well. Grant is on the wrong side of 30, and it’s been a real mixed bag from Caballo. The early signs are that using a foreign spot on the Spaniard might look like a mistake, but hindsight is always 20/20, of course.
With little information coming out of the club it seems unlikely either Rodwell or Wilkinson will feature in the Sky Blues side before the World Cup hiatus begins. You’ve got to think Corica is already targeting an Australian centre-back to come in once the transfer window opens.