Sydney claims second on ladder - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sydney claims second on ladder

By Philip Henderson 03/02/2006 11:40:25 PM Comments (0)

Socceroo hopeful Alvin Ceccoli has blasted Sydney FC into a major semi-final showdown with A-League minor premier Adelaide United after scoring the winner in a heartstopping top-of-the-table clash at Aussie Stadium.

Ceccoli claimed a 2-1 victory for Sydney against Adelaide with his 71st-minute 20-metre thunderbolt which sent the record crowd of 25,577 into hysterics.

It ended a nine-match unbeaten streak for the Reds, who were handed the premiership plate before the game after topping the table after the home-and-away rounds.

But more importantly, it sealed Sydney second place on the ladder, and a shot at hosting the grand final.

The goal was Ceccoli's first of the season, coming after the defender played every minute of the 21 rounds.

It followed a superb goal from Adelaide striker Shenqing Qu in the 50th minute, which ruled out Dwight Yorke's cheeky, chip-shot penalty two minutes earlier.

After playing arguably three of the best games this season, Sydney and Adelaide will meet again next week in the first game of a two-legged semi-final.

The winner of that series will host the grand final.

Sydney's win also ended any hope Central Coast or Newcastle had of snatching second spot in the final round before the finals.

Sydney, though, will miss defender Iain Fyfe for the first week of the semis after he received a yellow card in stoppage time. The caution, his fourth of the season, earns him a one-match ban.

After playing away in New Zealand last week and Sydney, Adelaide has decided to break convention and host the first leg of the semi at Hindmarsh Stadium on February 12.

Sydney coach Pierre Littbarski said the win would give his side plenty of confidence for next week's rematch after their struggles since the Christmas break.

"Especially against Adelaide, having the win, it was very sweet, and it gives us a lot of self confidence for next Sunday in Adelaide," said Littbarski.

"Now the situation is more open when everyone was thinking it was going in Adelaide's direction."

Besides the result, Adelaide coach John Kosmina was just as happy with his side's performance.

"We had a real game tonight, we hadn't had a real game for the past couple of weeks and we really needed it," Kosmina said.

"And it was one of those that could've gone either way, a draw probably would have been a fair result."

Yorke put the home side in front early in the second half after Reds skipper Ross Aloisi was unlucky to have the ball brush his hand just inside the area.

It took less than two minutes for the Reds to strike back, though, with midfielder Travis Dodd taking full advantage of a Jacob Timpano defensive error to set up Qu, whose classy left-foot strike off the side of the boot levelled the scores.

Qu's top-draw finish and coolness in front of goal was in stark contrast to Sydney striker Sasho Petrovski, who butchered three one-on-one chances against Adelaide 'keeper Beltrame in the first half.

Robert Cornthwaite had an opportunity to snatch a draw for Adelaide in the dying minutes, but his header in a crowded box was brilliantly saved by Sydney 'keeper Clint Bolton.

Ceccoli, though, was a deserved hero for Sydney. One of the best defenders in the league this season, Ceccoli is considered a strong chance for a Socceroos call up in this month's Asian Cup qualifier.

With new Australian assistant coach Johan Neeskens among an all-star cast - also including 1998 French World Cup-winning coach Aime Jacquet - in the crowd, Ceccoli did his chances no harm with another standout performance.

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