Shane Smeltz came off the bench to score twice for Sydney FC as they played out a gripping 3-3 draw with Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
In an epic battle that had great goals, two penalties, seven yellow cards, fiery exchanges and a touch of controversy, Smeltz proved the Sky Blues hero with a late brace to ensure the side’s shared the points.
Marc Janko gave the home side an early lead before Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler scored within seven minutes to put Victory 2-1 up at the break.
The Sky Blues drew level after a contentious penalty 17 minutes from time only for Nick Ansell to put Victory back in front just five minutes later.
But Smeltz had the final say with a superb header five minutes from the end as the two side’s played out a 3-3 draw for the second time this season.
WHAT THEY SAID
"It was a very good game once again. It was just disappointing we didn’t take all three points. In patches we played really well tonight, some of the best football we’ve played. But we need to convert that into 90 minutes." – Sydney FC striker Shane Smeltz
"It feels like a loss to be honest. To score three goals away from home, we really should win this game. We need to put teams to the sword and maybe be a bit meaner in defence." – Victory winger Kosta Barbarouses
1-0 Janko (8’) – Victory right-back Jason Geria was guilty of a clumsy challenge on Chris Naumoff in the box, bundling him over for a clear penalty. Janko sent Nathan Coe the wrong way, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom left-hand corner for his fourth goal in the last three matches.
1-1 Barbarouses (34’) – The Kiwi international did well to keep his feet as he wriggled free from a challenge by Milos Dimitrijevic just inside Sydney’s half. Barbarouses then linked with Besart Berisha, who held off two defenders before slipping the ball back to his winger. Barbarouses dribbled into the box before curling a shot with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner.
1-2 Finkler (41’) – Barbarouses and Berisha were involved again, playing a neat one-two in midfield which allowed the former to cut right through the heart of the Sky Blues defence. Instead of shoot from the edge of the box, Barbarouses turned the ball into the path of Finkler who slotted clinically past Vedran Janjetovic.
2-2 Smeltz (73’) – The Sky Blues won their second penalty of the match when Delovski adjudged Finkler to have fouled Sebastian Ryall, despite having his back to the Sydney defender. Smeltz didn’t care though, planting the ball into the corner for his third goal against Victory in two games this season.
2-3 Ansell (78’) – The Victory defender managed to break free of the challenge of Bernie Ibini from a corner to put a thumping header past Janjetovic from just six yards out.
3-3 Smeltz (85’) – Sydney full-back Aaron Calver was found in space down the right wing and he swung a pin-point cross into the box. Despite having two defenders around him, Smeltz judged the flight of the ball perfectly and produced a brilliant looping header which floated into the corner of Nathan Coe’s net.
Smeltz was thrown into the fray on 64 minutes with the Sky Blues doing well but still trailing 2-1. And the Kiwi international showed just why he has scored so many goals in the Hyundai A-League, drawing Sydney level on two occasions with great finishes to ensure a thrilling contest ended all square.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Janko’s early penalty not only gave the Sky Blues the lead but meant the first five goals of round 17 of the Hyundai A-League had all come from the penalty spot. It was Sydney’s first goal in front of their home fans in over five hours of action. The stalemate was the eighth time in the last 12 matches between the two sides at Allianz Stadium to end in a draw.
Victory’s equaliser 11 minutes before the break is the perfect illustration of why Kevin Muscat’s side are most experts’ favourites for the title. Barbarouses showed great balance, power and pace first to beat withstand Dimitrijevic’s tackle to keep the attack alive. He found Berisha who also had to be strong under the attention of a couple of Sky Blues defenders before having the skill and awareness to get the ball back to his winger. And Barbarouses was able to cap the thrilling move with a classy finish with the outside of his right boot. A truly brilliant goal.
Defenders should know that they need to be 100 percent sure with their challenges whenever an attacker has the ball inside the penalty area. But Jason Geria forgot that mantra early on, clumsily barging into Chris Naumoff to concede a needless penalty and immediately put the visitors on the back-foot. Luckily for the youngster it didn’t cost them more in the end but coach Kevin Muscat will hope he learns a lesson before the big end-of-season matches.
THE FINAL WORD
Sydney FC will need to find a way to overcome their woes at Allianz - without a win in their last four games - with Central Coast visiting next Saturday afternoon. Graham Arnold’s side will fancy their chances though against a side they crushed 5-1 just a couple of weeks ago. Victory have another difficult road trip with a clash against a resurgent Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Calver, Ryall, Jurman, Gersbach, Tavares (Stambolziev 85’), Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Naumoff (Antonis 46’), Janko (Smeltz 64’)
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Geria, Leijer, Ansell, Galloway, Valeri, Milligan, Barbarouses (Nabbout 80’), Finkler (Thompson 80’), Ben Khalfallah, Berisha
Scorers: Janko 8’, Barbarouses 34’, Finkler 41’, Smeltz 73’, Ansell 78’, Smeltz 85’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Geria 39’, Valeri 53’, Calver 69’, Berisha 79’, Gersbach 90+1’, Galloway 90+3’, Jurman 90+3’
Conditions: 25C, Wet
Attendance: 17,356 @ Allianz Stadium