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Analysis: Sydney fail to make dominance count against Shanghai

Sydney: Sydney FC endured a frustrating night at the Sydney Football Stadium on Tuesday, dominating in every facet against Shanghai Shenhua but failing to put the ball in the net in a 0-0 draw that ultimately ended their hopes of advancing to the Round of 16.

With the visitors already eliminated coming into the match, Sydney FC knew a win was essential if they were any chance of advancing to the knockout rounds.

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Mierzejewski Dominant

 What more can be said about Sydney’s Polish midfielder Adrian Mierzejewski? He has been by far Sydney’s best player in this campaign, and he was their most dangerous player again last night with a typically sublime performance in midfield.

The Pole had an incredible 105 touches of the ball, completing 64 passes at 73% accuracy and had eight shots on goal. Almost every chance Sydney had was created by Mierzejewski.

Such was Sydney’s dominance that almost all of his passes came in his own attacking half, as shown on his passing map (below), which highlights just how busy he was.

Defending Deep

Fielding an understrength side after the injury to Obafemi Martins and suspension to Fredy Guarin, and having already been eliminated from the competition, Shanghai Shenhua travelled to Sydney looking to frustrate the home side and that’s exactly what they did.

The Chinese side dropped deep, conceding 71% of the possession to the home side, and looked to make themselves difficult to play through, looking to clog up the midfield area and restrict the space afforded to Sydney’s dynamic midfield. 

As shown by the average positions (below) of both teams, almost every player for Shanghai is in their own half, while the same is almost the same for Sydney FC which highlights just how much of the game was played in Sydney’s half.

Strength in Numbers

Key to Sydney FC’s success in the A-League this year has been the midfield duo of Josh Brillante and Brandon O’Neill, with the midfielders pushing up and looking to win back possession for their side, giving the likes of Adrian Mierzejewski and Milon Ninkovic more time on the ball and in the most dangerous areas.

The pair were at their best again last night, stymying Shanghai whenever they looked to break and then being the first line of attack for the home side. Between them they completed a whopping 207 passes, almost as many as the entire Shanghai Shenhua side (who completed 248).

As their heat map (below) shows, they dominated the midfield, which helped Sydney FC control so much of the possession. The only thing missing was a goal.

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