SYDNEY FC 2 CELTIC 1
SLUGGISH Celtic stumbled to defeat at the first stage of the Sydney Super Cup at the Allianz Arena this morning.
To be kind to Ange Postecoglou’s men, you could say they were suffering from jet lag because this was far from the sort of performance the Hoops fans normally associate with one of his teams.
There was a lack or urgency and snap from the players who all too often stepped off their opponents and allowed them time and space to build attacks.
The manager will surely demand a lot more from his team when they take on Everton on Sunday morning in the second and final outing of the competition.
However, he couldn’t have been entirely satisfied with what looked like a leg-weary offering from the men in the hoops in this occasion.
It couldn’t have exactly been the homecoming occasion the former Australia World Cup gaffer had in mind.
THE RACE IS ON…captain-for-the-day James Forrest and Sydney FC’s Joe Lolley challenge for possession.
It took a marvellous reflex save from Benji Siegrist to prevent the hosts from taking the lead in the tenth minute.
Rhyan Grant’s timing was perfect as he sprung the offside trap with Carl Starfelt slow to react to the ball over the top with the opposing player racing in from the right.
He took a touch before lashing in a ferocious angled drive, but the Swiss keeper threw up a hand to get a fingertip to the effort to divert the ball onto the frame of the goal and past for a corner-kick.
Six minutes later, with the home side growing in confidence, they rattled the crossbar with a drive from Robert Mak. Siegrist was stranded as the first-time drive zipped over his left shoulder before thudding against the crossbar.
In the 18th minute, keeper Thomas Howard-Belle denied Kyogo Furuhashi when he was out swiftly to block a six-yard effort after an inviting ball in from Liel Abada on the right.
Amazingly, the home side walloped another shot off the bar in the 21st minute when some more slack defending allowed Joe Lolley acres a space and he belted the ball off the bar with Siegrist again left totally exposed by the men in front of him.
HELPLESS…keeper Thomas Howard-Belle is stranded as Kyogo Furuhashi diverts a drive from Alexandro Bernabei (top right) into the net for the breakthrough strike.
CELEBRATIONS…Kyogo Furuhashi races away in triumph as the beaten netminder makes his apologies.
Equally astonishingly, the Hoops took the lead in the 24th minute when a long-range drive from Alexandro Bernabei was diverted by Kyogo past the wrong-footed Howard-Belle.
It wasn’t a classic, but the Celtic fans greeted it as they would a Cup winner!
Earlier, the netminder had produced an acrobatic leap to tip over a raging 25-yarder from David Turnbull and, in the lead-up to the goal, he did well to push away an angled shot from James Forrest, who was captain for the day.
Three minutes later, Mak deservedly equalised when he sped away from a lackustre Stephen Welsh onto a through ball, cut inside, drew Siegrist and slotted the ball into the corner.
No-one could begrudge the Aussies their goal after their vigorous start to the encounter.
THAT’S OUR BHOY…Alexandro Bernabei and Stephen Welsh congratulate Kyogo Furuhashi on his goal.
In the 43rd minute, a superb sweeping move from Oliver Abildgaard and Abada set up Kyogo 12 yards out, but the Japanese hitman’s well-struck shot was blocked by the keeper and scrambled clear.
Just on half-time, the Aussies almost capitalised on a slip by Abildgaard, but Siegrist was equal to the task as he threw himself to the right to push a curling attempt wide of the post.
It was no surprise Postecoglou made five changes at the interval in an attempt to up the tempo with Greg Taylor, Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate, Sead Haksabanovic and Filipe Jota replacing Bernabei, Abildgaard, Ideguchi, Abada and Forrest.
Ironically, the Hoops were denied a stonewall penalty-kick following a blatant hand ball when a defender deflected a netbound effort from Kyogo. It came moments after Howard-Belle had made a fine sprawling save from an Anthony Ralston header.
Where’s VAR when you need it?
OZ-SOME…Robert Mak slots the ball past Benji Siegrist for the equaliser with Stephen Welsh looking on.
Celtic went forward in waves after the turnaround and Jota had a clear shooting chance in the 58th minutes. Unlike the flamboyant Portuguese raider, he waywardly scooped a shot high over the bar.
Two minutes later, the Aussies responded by claiming a second goal completely against the run of play.
Once again, worryingly for the manager, the defence were caught slumbering and Taylor, taking over the captain’s armband, stood off Max Burgess and allowed his opponent to drag the ball to his left before arcing an unstoppable effort past the despairing Siegrist.
Rocco Vata and Scott Robertson were both introduced with Turnbull and Kyogo being withdrawn in the 67th minute.
Robertson’s first action was to thump in a free-kick which was deflected by a frantic defender for a corner-kick.
THE WINNER…Max Burgess (left) curls the ball beyond the stretching Benji Siegrist with Greg Taylor, Matt O’Riley and Co getting a good view of their opponent’s skills.
The Hoops took control again, but lacked the cutting edge to create a clear-cut chance.
At the other end, Carl Starfelt and Welsh did not look comfortable as a double-act and, to be fair, the Swede didn’t look 100 per cent fit after his recent injury problems.
Following a mid-air clash, Welsh, with his head heavily bandaged, came off in the 78th minute to be replaced by teenager Bosum Lawal.
Haksabanovic was next to have a shooting chance, but the Montenegro international’s shot lacked oomph and accuracy and was easy for the grateful keeper.
The match petered out to a sloppy conclusion which had been in keeping with most of what had been on show in Sydney.
TEAM: Siegrist; Ralston, Welsh (sub: Lawal 78), Starfelt, Bernabei (sub: Taylor 46); Abildgaard (sub: O’Riley 46), Turnbull (sub: Roberson 67), Ideguchi (sub: Hatate 46); Abada (sub: Haksabanovic 46) Kyogo (sub: Vata 67), Forrest (sub: Jota 46).