Sydney FC the undisputed kings of football in Australia... just
SYDNEY -- Sydney FC lifted the FFA Cup trophy after a 2-1 extra-time victory over Adelaide United at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday night. Here are three thoughts from the match:1. Sydney win by the skin of their teeth
Graham Arnold's side are now the undisputed kings of football in Australia, becoming the first team to hold the triple crown as FFA Cup winners, A-League premiers and A-League champions. But Tuesday's FFA Cup triumph did not come easily.
With Poland international Adrian Mierzejewski pulling the strings in midfield, the hosts were cruising in the first half and it was no surprise when Milos Ninkovic opening the scoring in the 19th minute. But things went downhill for them after an hour of play.
With marquee man Ninkovic needing to be substituted with what appeared to be a calf injury, and Adelaide upping their tempo after the break, Sydney conceded possession and allowed Adelaide to level the scores through a fine curling effort from Nikola Mileusnic.
All of a sudden, the Sky Blues found themselves in a fight. Arnold introduced fan-favourite Matt Simon to give Sydney some more steel, but that came at the expense of free-flowing football in the final third. Most of their play was then reduced to relying on shots from distance from Mierzejewski and hoping Bobo could get on the end of a long ball.
The end of regular time came and went and, though there were chances galore throughout the 120 minutes, it was Bobo's perfect positioning that proved to the difference. A pulsating, end-to-end contest was decided by the Brazilian's well-taken header in the 110th minute, but only after Adelaide had squandered two golden chances to steal the win for themselves.
After beginning the road to the FFA Cup with 721 teams across Australia, Sydney FC were the last ones standing... just.
2. Gallant Reds put up a good fight
Arnold had bullishly suggested before the game that Sydney had had the ideal preparation and that Adelaide's heavy travel schedule would catch up with them mid-match.
Marco Kurz, however, had his players well-prepared and almost completed the perfect smash-and-grab job. Playing a slow tempo in the first half, the Reds came out in the second half firing and stunned the hosts.
Ben Garuccio set the tone, rattling the bar with an excellent free kick just minutes into the second period.
Adelaide continued to knock on the door and were rewarded when Mileusnic made history by scoring the first away goal in a FFA Cup final, curling a beautiful finish into the far corner with 20 minutes to play.
The Reds looked more likely to score again, testing Sydney keeper Andrew Redmayne on a number of occasions -- especially in extra-time. Within seconds of each other, Karim Matmour and substitute Mark Ochieng both squandered chances to win the match.
Bobo made Adelaide rue those misses, and Michael Marrone's red card for pushing a ball-boy in the final minutes -- sparking a melee -- left a sour taste, but there were plenty of positives for Kurz and Co. to draw from the match.
3. Questions over the crowd
The crowd, or lack thereof, was always going be a major talking point surrounding the FFA Cup final. However, for the 13,452 fans who turned up, Sydney and Adelaide put on a show worthy of any tournament final.
Hearing rumours that tonights crowd will be very underwhelming.— Taylor Regan (@taylorreegs) November 21, 2017
Too late to change the venue or invite wanderers fans to help?#FFACupFinal
The FFA's reasoning for staging the game in Sydney can't really be argued with. The Sky Blues travelled to Melbourne for last year's final and, while there is no seeding in the competition, surely had the greatest claim to being top dogs as the reigning A-League premiership and championship holders.
But what can the FFA do to make sure that one of their marquee fixtures gets the attention and fanfare it deserves? Hosting the final in Canberra has been mooted. As has scheduling the game on a public holiday, such as Australia Day.
Whatever the next move is, the FFA board, or whoever is in charge after Nov. 30, needs to act decisively. The FFA Cup final deserves better.
Mike Wise is the associate editor for ESPN FC Australia and New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter @wisey_9.