Frank was right about Van Dijk and I was wrong. His 3 tonight puts him in the league of the season's top scorers. However, it was the amazing skill and speed of Michael Zullo that won this game for the Roar. He should be man of the match. His consistency highlights the correct decision not to pay up for Minniecon.
Zullo was running right in front of us in the first half. We cheered and encouraged him to run at Sydney's Grant. I don't recall Grant winning more than one tackle in the first 30 minutes (albeit the critical on goal on the 6 yard box). Zullo was the Roar's main option in that first half hour. With Sydney closing the Roar down for the half and Brosque trying to make runs up his right wing, Zullo got the ball time after time and out ran, turned and crossed around Grant. Two, three crosses went begging. Then Mitch got on the end of one in the box and the Sydney keeper could not hang onto it, Van Dijk was there to poach it in.
Then the Roar sat back. A Sydney goal started to look inevitable. grant was making his own dangerous crosses across the Roar defence. And it looked shakey. Andrew Packer, for the second game, struggled to maintain his position. Sydney equalised from a Grant cross.
The Roar switched back on. Moore plowed one down the middle and Van Dijk outplayed Sydney's offside trap brilliantly. He did not miss from inside the box.
After a few more cutting runs and crosses, Zullo was done. But he had done the damage for the night.
This ref struggles to keep up with the game. He missed hand balls and dangerous elbows. Most comically he blew for a corner. Then called half time before the Roar had a chance to take it. But worse was to come in the second half. As Sydney became more desparate to save their season they began diving, tripping, using their elbows. The ref missed most of these, until Caincross was given a red.
Simon Collosimo came on in the middle of the second half. He quickly showed he was prepared to do anything to win the game for Sydney and keep their season alive. This included a dive to get Craig Moore in the book (his 4th), and an elbow to Murdocca's head - an attempt to get Murdocca out of the game. Frank was incensed that it was only a yellow and could be seen questioning the match officials about the ref allowing Sydney's callus and dangerous play to go on. Josh McCloughan got a very very soft yellow to make up his 5th, so I think he is out next week - Mundy?
Robbie Kruse came on but sadly added little to the game. Given that he was nudging out Tommy Oar it will be interesting to see, given Asia is still on the line, if he gets a another chance. He looked timid.
Then Charlie Miller came on with 12 minutes to go. The crowd went wild and the Roar lifted. The Roar front three (Van Dijk, Kruse and Miller), Van Dijk had been playing wide and making crosses, with Zullo, on the left in the second half, kept in a tight triangle drawing in most of the Sydney defence.
Roar sat back. Van Dijk get the ball. Its Van Dijk with Miller on his left and Sydney defenders on the back foot. Van Dijk does a series of step overs - now we have seen everything - 'pass to Miller', but he shoots high. Then Van Dijk is in the clear again, this time out in front. Then he falls over. Yep.
Then the 90 were up, 3 to go. Miller gets the ball. Passes to van Dijk who scores. Hat trick. Yes.
This is what we want. Now for Adelaide or Melbourne to slip up. Best Perth. Then Asia. That is what Australian Football needs, Asia in Brisbane - with crowds of 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000.