Saprissa's experience just too much for Sydney FC
A second-half strike from Christian Bolanos handed Deportivo Saprissa victory over Australia's Sydney FC in the quarter-final of the FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup Japan 2005 at the Toyota Stadium today. Despite not hitting top gear, the Costa Rican outfit were able to withstand the best efforts of their Australian opponents, who took the initiative throughout and enjoyed the lion's share of possession.
The game started at a promising pace, with the early exchanges swinging from end to end. The first chance of note fell to Saprissa midfielder Randall Azofeifa, who had his effort pushed out for a corner. Sydney keeper Clinton Bolton then had to be at his sharpest to deal with the subsequent cross.
Minutes later, it was the turn of José Francisco Porras in the Saprissa goal to keep his side on level terms. First he pulled off a fine save from Sasho Petrovski's dangerous cross shot, and followed that with another stop from a ball whipped in by Sydney's Japanese striker Kazu, whose every move was cheered by his compatriots in the crowd. The young Australian David Carney was a particular menace for the Central Americans, repeatedly picking out his incisive front men Kazu and Petrovski.
After the initial urgency of the first fifteen minutes, the tempo of the game eased off noticeably. Nevertheless, the Oceania side continued to dominate possession. Dwight Yorke and Terry Mc Flynn bossed the midfield, while "King" Kazú and Petrovski continued to cause some nervous moments for the Tico defence.
Then on the half-hour mark, Saprissa, perhaps in a bid to stave of the freezing cold, came to life briefly when the marauding Álvaro Saborio was taken down by the Sydney defence on the edge of the area. Azofeifa failed to find the target from the resulting free-kick, which cannoned off the wall and went out for a corner. The same player tried his luck again from the corner kick, but again the Australian defence cleared the danger.
With half-time approaching, Petrovski almost cashed in on a slip by Jervis Drummond in the Saprissa defence, but the Sydney man failed to hit the target when well placed.
With Hernán Medford's half-time team talk still ringing in their ears, Saprissa emerged after the break with renewed vigour and duly took the lead when Randall Azofeifa sprayed a pinpoint pass to Bolaños, who chested the ball down before firing past a stranded Bolton in the Sydney goal (0-1, 47').
Carney nearly produced an immediate riposte when he cut in from the by-line and unleashed a powerful drive past Porras that found the side-netting. With Saprissa content to sit on their lead, Sydney pushed forward in search of an equaliser to keep their dream of facing Liverpool alive. Gabriel Badilla almost handed it to them when he almost turned an Alvin Ceccoli cross goalbound.
As the clock ticked down, the Australians laid desperate siege to the Saprissa goal but were forced to make do without Ceccoli after he was red-carded for a rash challenge on Porras in the Tico box.
It was Saprissa who looked more likely to add a second on the counter, but Bolton stood firm to keep his side in the hunt. The Sydney keeper was quick to block Bolaños' effort after the striker's poor first touch let him down, and then denied Ronald Gómez when the number 11 was put through on goal. He followed that up with another fine save from Saborio in the dying stages, but his heroics were all to no avail.
Sydney FC's dream had gone up in smoke in the Toyota Stadium and the Australians now face a consolation clash with Al Ahly. As for Deportivo Saprissa, there is now a tantalising semi-final showdown with Liverpool in Yokohama to look forward to.