Ali Abbas capped a fairytale return to the Hyundai A-League by scoring the match-sealing goal as Sydney FC beat Newcastle Jets 2-0 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
In his first game back in almost 14 months following a horror knee injury, Abbas came off the bench in the second half and got his name on the scoresheet to ensure a crucial three points for the Sky Blues.
The Iraqi’s strike came after a good spell for the Jets, who were chasing an equaliser from Filip Holosko’s first-half opener.
But it was to no avail as the Jets went a record sixth straight game without a goal and a 10th straight match without a win for the Hunter club.
WHAT THEY SAID
“I can’t even talk right now. I would just like to thank everyone who came to support us. It’s been a long time for me but thank god I’m back. I’m so happy I can’t even describe the feeling.” – Sydney FC defender Ali Abbas
1-0 Holosko (15’) – The Sky Blues two imports combined with Milos Ninkovic playing an exquisite ball over the top with Holosko out-pacing Nick Cowburn and lashing it past Mark Birighitti from just inside the box.
2-0 Abbas (80’) – Abbas played the ball into the feet of Matt Simon who held off a defender before producing a sensational back-heel back into the Iraqi’s path and he slotted it under Birighitti with a well-placed finish.
David Carney was always going to be key if the Jets were going to cause an upset but from the moment Rhyan Grant clattered into him with a heavy challenge in the first minute, the former Socceroo wasn’t an influence.
The Sydney defence had him firmly in check besides one or two fleeting moments, even with Carney alternating between the left and right flank to try and get into the match.
With the Jets’ main attacking weapon nullified, it ensured a fairly comfortable day for the Sky Blues back-four and ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
-Sydney FC has now gone 10 games unbeaten against the Jets, including eight wins in that stretch.
-Newcastle has now equalled an A-League record (with the New Zealand Knights) for six consecutive games without a goal. The Jets haven’t found the net in 559 minutes.
-The Sky Blues didn’t concede a shot on target against the Jets for the second time this season.
After more than a year with a horror knee injury, it was great to see popular midfielder Ali Abbas for the Sky Blues.
The loudest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for when the Iraqi international entered the fray with just under 20 minutes left.
And Abbas capped his return with the match-sealing goal nine minutes later, running off to the bench to celebrate with team-mates and strength and conditioning coach Andrew Clark, who had done so much in his rehabilitation.