An incredible goal from Alessandro Diamanti has secured a crucial 1-0 win for Western United against Sydney FC, plunging beleaguered coach Steve Corica under more pressure.
In the first ever A-League match at North Hobart Oval, a game largely lacking in quality up front was settled by a piece of magic from the Italian maestro, who rolled back the years with his wonder goal.
Western United looked livelier in the opening stages, but Adam Le Fondre had the first big chance of the match in the 13th minute when a quick set of passes sent the big man behind the United defence, but he pulled his shot wide.
It was a largely tepid and turgid first-half with both sides struggling to create clear cut chances, despite the teams having the two worst defences in the league.
Robert Mak had a massive chance in the 33rd minute when he won the ball high up the pitch and broke on goal, but his shot went straight at Young. Tongo Doumbia had Western United first proper chance minutes later when he thumped a shot from distance that flew past the post but went just wide.
Anthony Caceres almost waltzed through the defending champions defence to give the Sky Blues the lead just before half-time, but he was off balance and his shot went way over the bar. Dylan Pierias thought he opened the scoring in the 49th minute when he pounced on an Andrew Redmayne spill, but the winger was ruled offside, having earlier forced Redmayne into saving his strong volley.
Young pulled off a top reflex save when he stopped Mak’s deflected effort in the 51st minute. Le Fondre tried the spectacular with an overhead kick attempt seven minutes later, but it went straight down the throat of Young.
With 15 minutes to go it was Redmayne’s turn to make a top save, using a strong left palm to deny a powerful Pierias effort. Despite creating more chances, Sydney were wasteful and were punished by Diamanti’s goal, which came soon after his arrival on the pitch from the bench.
Sydney pushed for an equaliser, but the worst defence in the league held firm for a massive victory.
WHERE’S THE YOUTH?
It’s clear that since the height of the COVID pandemic that the minutes allocated to young players in the A-League Men has steadily decreased, much to the frustration of many fans. This was certainly the case in this matchup, with both sides starting eleven’s having average ages of 30 and 32 respectively.
The reluctance for either coach to give more of an opportunity to youth players is particularly perplexing given both teams are playing well below their standards. Whilst Noah Botic got a maiden A-League start, Nicolas Milanovic and Rhys Bozinovski sat on the bench. Sydney fans have also expressed frustration that striker Patrick Wood hasn’t been given more game-time this season, especially as veteran Adam Le Fondre is badly out of form in front of goal and is showing signs of his ageing.
Whilst coaches usually prefer experience as the safer option, it seems clear that both teams need to freshen up their squads, especially in light of the lack of quality football played in this match.
QUAINT NORTH HOBART OVAL REFLECTS ISSUES WITH TASMANIAN STADIUMS
Tasmanian football fans have felt very hard done by that they haven’t had their own A-League team to support, and many neutral fans believe those in power missed a trick when they chose to award the recent expansion licences to teams away from the island state.
However, a big stumbling block towards the establishment of a Tasmanian team is the lack of a proper rectangular stadium for regular football use. The biggest grounds in the state are oval due to the popularity of Aussie rules football. Whilst fans on social media left positive comments on a picturesque North Hobart Oval, it reflects the fact that as a league, finding rectangular – and more specifically, football specific – stadiums should be of prime importance for all teams present and future.
Oval stadiums simply do not offer a quality viewing experience for fans and pundits, and North Hobart Oval in particular is lacking in facilities and amenities that should be expected of a modern football stadium. All fans would love a Tasmanian team, but until there is a proper stadium, it’s difficult to envisage an A-League team permanently calling Tasmania home.
CLOCK TICKING FOR CORICA
After missing the finals last season, Steve Corica needed a fast start to the season to make his job secure despite signing a contract extension. Losing seven of their first 13 games and having the second worst defence in the league certainly isn’t that.
There has been growing discontent at each poor result, with the defence struggling as first choice centre-back’s Alex Wilkinson and Jack Rodwell struggle with injury and their attack thwarted by wastefulness and a declining Adam Le Fondre.
With only one win in their last six, it is becoming difficult to see a Sydney board with high expectations continue to tolerate the club’s slide into mediocrity. But it is becoming apparent that this Sydney side that has been together for so long needs a total overhaul, and that may mean bringing in a new coach with fresh ideas.
Round 13 ISUZU UTE A-League Men’s
Western United 1 (Diamanti 85′)
Sydney FC 0
Image credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images