AFTER yet another top-shelf performance, it was a cruel twist of fate that Sydney FC defender Iain Fyfe would give away the penalty that decided Saturday’s match.
Replays showed Fyfe accidentally impeded the run of Central Coast striker Dylan Macallister, and with the home crowd still seething that John Aloisi was allowed to retake his missed penalty after a Mariners player entered the box, the referee pointed to the spot.
While the captain’s armband he carried implied a certain level of responsibility, Fyfe was left shattered and with a hollow feeling that he’d let his teammates down.
"It was just a really unfortunate incident," he told the Herald . "I went to block Dylan’s shot. I used my whole body for that, and I turned my back and Dylan kind of went over. But I haven’t seen the replay and I don’t know if it was a penalty or not. But if you’d ask me now, it was probably a 50-50.
"It was frustrating that there was a decision made in the 89th minute that cost us the game. It was probably a decision that could have gone either way. But that’s football."
Fyfe’s frustrations went beyond that solitary incident, with the temporary skipper admitting his teammates were shaded by their hosts in their approach.
"To be honest, I think the Mariners were more organised than us. They seem to keep great shape," he said. "They played the better football, they were always first to those second balls, and full credit to them, they were a much better team than us on the night.
"Crucially, they won the midfield battle. Their midfielders played a lot better than our midfielders. But in saying that, we were poor all over the park. It’s not just the midfielders’ fault, everybody has to stand up and take responsibility."
While coach John Kosmina alluded to the loss of Tony Popovic as a reason behind Sydney’s lack of organisation, Fyfe believes the time has come for those left to give more.
"Maybe we are missing ‘Poppa’ a little bit, but you can’t keep using that as an excuse, as far as I’m concerned," Fyfe said. "Every week we play well, like last week. We don’t miss him because we played well. It seems like every week that we lose, we’re missing Poppa.
"We can’t keep using that as an excuse. We’ve got to move on and other players step up."
Fyfe filled Popovic’s captaincy role with aplomb against the Mariners, barking instructions at every turn and doing his best to keep the younger players focused.
"It was something I really relished, and I love leading the boys out there, so it was a great feeling," he said.
While five Sydney players have committed to join other A-League clubs next season, both Fyfe and Robbie Middleby, who are heading to Adelaide and North Queensland respectively, are clearly intent on finishing their careers with Sydney in the best possible fashion.
Fyfe has resolved to leave no stone unturned in his final few months in the harbour city and is dedicated to helping fulfil the club’s lofty pre-season ambitions.
"We look around at training and see the quality, so it is there," he said. "It’s just so frustrating that we haven’t put it together over the past few months. It’s something we’ll have to keep working on. There’s only six games left in the season, and it’s important we get it right very quick or we’ll find ourselves outside the top four, and that’s unacceptable."