Sydney FC started the 2011/12 Hyundai A-League with an emphatic performance that proved the two-time Champions have what it takes, playing a classy and courageous part in a thrilling 0-0 draw with Melbourne Victory in front of more than 40,000 fans at Etihad Stadium.

Even when reduced to 10 men following a contentious red card to Mark Bridge midway through the second half, Sydney CF stood tall, played beautiful football and came away from Melbourne with a well-deserved point. Many could argue Sydney FC deserved all three.

Both sides played out an epic contest which was dripping with passion, controversy, end-to-end action and all that the A-League was crying out for.

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The game was billed as Brett Emerton v Harry Kewell – two Socceroos making triumphant returns to the Hyundai A-League. But it was so much more.

In the end, it was the two goalkeepers, Sydney FC’s Liam Reddy and Melbourne Victory’s Ante Covic, who were the best players on a field that was full of heroes.

Both sides signalled their intentions early with an extraordinary first five minutes that saw both teams have two shots on goal with some highly entertaining interplay.

Shannon Cole was the first to let fly with a shot from 25m in the 2nd minute that brought out the first save from Covic.

Reddy then made a magnificent save in the 4th minute when he came out to smother a Danny Allsopp shot from close range.

Less than a minute later it was Sydney FC that had a shot on goal as Bridge was on the end of good play from Nick Carle and Terry Antonis and his shot was parried to safety by Covic.

Then Allsopp had another shot saved by Reddy after a long ball.

All that was inside the first five minutes.

The game settled down after an initial cracking pace but both teams still played an enthralling brand of fast-paced possession football, creating half chances at either end.

While Melbourne shaded the first 30 minutes it was Sydney FC that a huge chance in the 29th minute when a Scott Jamieson free kick was deflected into the path of Bridge, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Covic.

Just to keep the end-to-end trend going, Melbourne had a chance booted to safety by Pascal Bosschaart less than a minute later.

More drama came in the 32nd minute after Bridge was dragged down in the penalty area by Fabio and referee Peter Green awarded what was a clear penalty. Covic then continued his great game by saving Brett Emerton’s spot kick to the delight of the 40,000 plus crowd.

Covic was at it again in the 36th minute when he pulled off a one-handed save to deny Bridge again.

Almost on call, Melbourne went to the other end only to see Archie Thompson shoot wide after a clever flick on from Kewell.

In the 45th minute it was Reddy’s turn for brilliance, pulling off a world class save to deny a Kewell header that was heading for the top right hand corner of the net.

The teams went to the break locked at 0-0 after a fantastic first half and came out with the same attacking intent after half time.

Bridge and Antonis had chances within seven minutes of the resumption as Covic twice came to Melbourne’s rescue. Minutes later Michael Beauchamp made a last-ditched tackle to thwart Thompson after a Melbourne counter-attack.

In the 56th minute Reddy was again at full stretch, this time holding onto a low drive from Kewell as both goalkeepers continued to cover themselves in glory.

Midway through the second half Sydney FC had the Victory on their knees with Fabio and Thompson hobbling and looked likely to open the scoring before Kewell and then Thompson fired over the bar after swift counter attacks.

The match reached flash point in the 73rd minute when Bridge was harshly sent off after striking out at Roddy Vargas, who had clearly shoved him as the teams waited for a Victory free kick. A melee broke out and Adrian Leijer was shown a yellow card for his part.

It could have seen Sydney FC fall as the Melbourne crowd go behind their team but this Sydney FC team has courage and they stood tall to hold out Melbourne Victory and came away with a share of the points.

Sydney FC will now switch its attention to the “Welcome Home Brett” clash with Brisbane Roar at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday 15 October. Kick off for the match is 7.45pm.

Sydney FC 0 drew Melbourne Victory 0
Etihad Stadium
Crowd: 40,351
Referee: Peter Green

Sydney FC: 1. Liam Reddy, 3. Jamie Coyne(2. Sebastian Ryall ‘85), 4 Pascal Bosschaart, 5. Michael Beauchamp, 7. Brett Emerton (6. Hirofumi Moriyasu ‘83), 10. Nick Carle (9. Bruno Cazarine ‘90), 12. Shannon Cole, 15. Terry McFlynn (c), 17. Terry Antonis, 19. Mark Bridge, 21. Scott Jamieson.

Sub not used: 20. Ivan Necevski (gk).
Yellow cards: Scott Jamieson 45, Michael Beauchamp 56, Liam Reddy 75, Nick Carle 91)
Red cards: Mark Bridge 73

Melbourne Victory:21. Ante Covic, 2. Matthew Foschini, 3. Fabio, 8. Grant Brebner, 10. Archie Thompson ( 19. Isaka Cernak ’68), 11. Marco Rojas, 12. Rodrigo Vargas, 14. Billy Celeski (6. Leigh Broxham ‘55), 18 Danny Allsopp (9. Jean Carlos Solorzano ‘80), 22. Harry Kewell, 23, Adrian Leijer.

Sub not used: 20 Lawrence Thomas (gk).
Yellow cards: Foschini 28, Fabio 32, Adrian Leijer 75
Red cards: None