Roar star spits on Sydney striker; both sent off
ANOTHER night in the A-League, another video nasty. Sydney FC are top of the table again but all the fallout will be from another moment of huge controversery courtesy of the video referee.
A 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar returned the Sky Blues to the summit, brushing aside the visitors with goals for David Carney, Adrian Mierzejewski and Seb Ryall. But the game's most contentious moment came through the involvement of the VAR which led to red cards for Matt Simon and Avram Papadopoulos.
Sydney will surely consider an appeal over Simon's dismissal, and it was hard to see how referee Alex King could give both players the same punishment after their scuffle left Papadopoulos lying on the turf.
It took only seconds for the huge screens at Allianz Stadium to reveal that the defender had spat at Simon, who responded by grabbing Papadopoulos's shirt. The contact was minimal but Papadopoulos collapsed to the turf and after an interminable delay both players were dismissed.
The whole incident was incongruous in several ways, not least the sight of King reviewing the incident on a tiny monitor while the crowd saw the footage on 277m-sq screens. The end result was a contentious red card for Simon, casting an even darker cloud over the VAR.
At least Sydney had the consolation of the win, and it was a very comfortable night at the office. If there was a good time to face them it was this - four days after an exhausting cup final, with several senior members of the side missing as a result. But Brisbane were so quickly on the back foot they had no opportunity to capitalise.
Only eight minutes had elapsed when Sydney took the lead with a move that sliced the visitors open. Roaming across the pitch in the absence of Milos Ninkovic, Mierzejewski had already served notice he would be pulling the strings.
For the goal he stroked a pass into the feet of Simon on the edge of the Roar box, who flicked it on with perfect weight into the path of Carney. With one touch Carney steadied himself, and with the second he struck the ball past Jamie Young.
It was largely one-way traffic from then on, Sydney held back only by their inability to convert most of their chances. Carney headed wide after Mierzejewski's cross found him free in front of goal, and Alex Brosque raced after a long pass from Josh Brillante but could shoot only at Jamie Young.
At least Mierzejewski didn't pass up the easiest of all, blasting home a penalty after Jacob Pepper had handled Carney's flick on in the box. But the Sky Blues should have been out of sight long before the end, for their opponents were horribly lightweight.
In Brett Holman, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Eric Bautheac they have some elegantly skilful players but the football was too ponderous, the transition sluggish in the extreme.
Massimo Maccarone ploughed a determined furrow upfront, but seemed more determined to preserve his stamina than harass Sydney's attempts to build attacks.
By the end Sydney were flagging themselves, clearly showing the effects of Tuesday night, but there was time for Jordy Buiys to place an accurate freekick on Ryall's head for the third goal.
In the final seconds Holman broke away and his low cross was converted by Jack Hingert, but it was scarcely even a consolation.