Western Sydney Wanderers failed to take the bragging rights home in the derby against their rivals Sydney as the teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.
Sydney maintained their undefeated streak in the passionate rivalry against the Wanderers after taking the lead early on courtesy of an early Alex Brosque goal. The Wanderers bounced back in the second half as Alexander Baumjohann scored a from a free-kick – which deflected its way into the back of the net.
Although the Wanderers had nothing to play for in the league, this match was a last meaningful game for their fans in what can only be described as a poor season under the lead of Markus Babbel. On the other side of town, Steve Corica will be looking forward to finals as they look to win back the A-League championship.
Here are three tactical observations from Goal’s A-League Match of the Week for Round 24…
Sydney outnumber in the midfield
Although Steve Corica usually opts for a 4-4-2 formation with Adam Le Fondre and a partner up top, they can still regularly outnumber their opponents in midfield, allowing them to easily bypass their opponents and control the game.
Especially with the full-backs, tonight Rhyan Grant and Paulo Retre, providing support in the midfield and then further up, it gives the Sky Blues numerical advantages which makes it easier to pass the ball to a safe option.
In the lead-up to Sydney’s goal in the sixth minute, Keanu Baccus receives the ball from Baumjohann and assumes he has plenty of time on the ball. With no options ahead of him, he dwindles and Adam Le Fondre tracking back helps to win the ball back.
Although Baccus should have realised he had an onrushing player coming at him, it certainly didn’t help that the options further forward were blocked off and that Sydney’s strikers were coming back deep to pressure him.
Throughout the game, it always felt like Sydney were first to the ball, or that they were comfortably able to pass the ball around the Wanderers midfield and that’s largely due to the fact that they always created numerical superiority in whichever zones the ball was in.
Wanderers play ‘straight from the training ground’
The cliche goes whenever a team threatens from a set-piece is that the play must have been ‘straight from the training ground’ after hours of practice and honing until it’s perfectly executed on game day.
For the time that Baumjohann was on the park, the Wanderers constantly asked questions of the Sydney defence whenever they had a set-piece, whether it was a free-kick or a corner.
In the first 15 minutes of the game, there was one example of this where Baumjohann puts in a low ball from the corner but Mitchell Duke only hit the side netting.
Time and time again the German midfielder would put in a dangerous ball which his profligate forwards would either hit straight at the keeper or off target. It’s a testament to Baumjohann’s immense talent that he so consistently put his opponents on the back foot with his delicious deliveries.
Of course, the only goal for the Wanderers also came from a set-piece as the marquee player decided to go through the wall rather than over since he was too close to the box to curl it in. He got a lucky deflection just like he hoped it would and gave his team a much-deserved equaliser thanks to his set-piece specialties.
Sydney come for Kamau
Since Tate Russell was taken on overseas duties for the U-23 Australia side, and with Josh Risdon already injured, Markus Babbel has opted for Bruce Kamau as his right-back, even with the Olyroo returning.
Although it’s clear he can offer a valuable attacking outlet just like Grant on the opposite side, he has a lot of work to do defensively before he can be a complete full-back.
Corica targeted Kamau and it helped that both him and his supporting partner, the left central midfielder, Keanu Baccus, were booked within the first 15 minutes of the game.
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Deputy left-back in lieu of Michael Zullo, Paulo Retre, double-teamed on Kamau with Anthony Caceres further forward and Kamau just didn’t have the support he needed to handle them effectively.
As the game continued, Kamau eased himself into the match and was not as easily beaten as he was in those early stages. Perhaps with a full pre-season of learning, he can develop himself into a proper full-back, if that is truly where his future lies.