Mierzejewski stars, but should he have been out there?

Sydney boss Graham Arnold believes his front four - Adrian Mierzejewski, Milos Ninkovic, Bobo and Alex Brosque - is the greatest in A-League history.

He may be right, and the quartet certainly all played a role in Sydney's 3-1 triumph over Melbourne Victory on Friday night in another memorable Australia Day Big Blue.

But should Mierzejewski have even been on the pitch?

The Pole was involved as a provider in all three Sydney goals, playing in Luke Wilkshire to provide the cross for Bobo's equalising header before threading a pass for Bobo before the Brazilian was brought down to win the penalty which put the Sky Blues 2-1 up. He then fed David Carney late in the game for the third.

It was a tremendous performance by the European, but Victory firmly believe he should have been sent off long before those timely interventions for a sickening second-half challenge on Rhys Williams.

Williams had already earned a yellow card for a crunching tackle on Mierzejewski. Later, Mierzejewski certainly caused the Victory centre-back an equal or greater amount of pain when he went up, elbows extended, and smashed him in the face.

Many referees have brandished straight red cards for such an offence, and it seemed the Pole, already with a yellow in the first half for dissent, seemed destined to be sent off.

But referee Jarred Gillett kept his hand in his pocket, much to the surprise of the crowd, the Victory players and most of the media. The VAR either looked at the incident and didn't deem it worthy, or were not invited to do so.

Had Mierzejewski been given his marching orders, who knows what might have happened. The score at the time was 0-0, and while Sydney was starting to exert control, Victory may well have been even further emboldened if they faced 10 men while Sydney could have shut up shop and played for a draw.

After the game Victory coach Kevin Muscat argued that there seemed to be one rule for the champions, and one for everyone else.

"The stats don't lie - every other team in the A-League has six or seven fouls per yellow, Sydney have about 14 or 15 fouls for every yellow. They're the facts," Muscat told Fox Sports.

He elaborated in the post-match press conference, pointing out the inconsistencies.

"I could see there was contact. He'd already been on a yellow card. [The VAR] can intervene if they think it's a direct red and he's made contact with his elbow.

"Surely it's a yellow card and he's already on a yellow card. So it was another big moment.

"When you're on the top of the table the big decisions tend to go for you."

Certainly there is no doubt that Sydney use all the tricks in the book to get the game played in their tempo and rhythm, and Muscat's contention that it is up to referees to better police it is true.

But teams halting the momentum of opponents with tactical fouls is something that has gone on for decades. You have to deal with it.

Victory was very good in the opening 20 minutes when they got in Sydney's faces.

But after weathering the storm the Sky Blues began to take control, with Arnold's aforementioned front four playing a key role.

Victory had succeeded in shutting them down in the grand final eight months ago when they forced that game to a penalty shootout but were far less successful this time.

This is a Sydney team which, in Arnold's view, has improved again, and the evidence would suggest that Victory has gone backwards.

Mark Milligan and James Troisi are not having the same impact as last season, Besart Berisha is still effective but not as lethal as in the past and now well into his thirties, and Carl Valeri is slowing down, as can be expected given his age.

There was some bemusement when the team sheet was released showing four changes to the starting line-up from the side that had won 3-0 against the Wanderers seven days earlier.

Midfielder Terry Antonis, who has created a big impression since joining, was dropped to the bench to make way for Troisi, while Muscat opted to give Jai Ingham another chance on the left wing in place of the injured Leroy George. While many fans want to see youngster Christian Theoharous given a chance, the Victory camp believe he is not yet fit enough to run out 90 minutes.

??? VICTORY might have given Berisha a contract extension earlier this year, but the future of their coach is still in limbo as the season proceeds to its climax.

Muscat, a club legend and championship-winning captain and coach, is out of contract at the end of this season and there has not been any announcement of a fresh deal - yet.

This story Mierzejewski stars, but should he have been out there? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.