Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was full of praise for his “outstanding” defence following his side's tense derby win on Saturday night.
The Sky Blues continued their recent dominance over Western Sydney Wanderers, escaping with a 1-0 win thanks to Milos Ninkovic’s first goal for the club two minutes from the end.
In another pulsating edition of the Harbour City rivalry, the result was probably harsh on the Wanderers but Arnold couldn’t care less.
“It was a typical derby. It was physical, it was fast, erratical at times but we showed a lot of character, a lot of heart,” the Sky Blues boss said.
“For me, early in the season it’s about getting points but it’s about the performance. I said to them at half-time I would rather lose than play the way we did the first half.
“I want the players to stick to the principles and stick to the style we want to play. Tonight we weren’t in control of the game as much as we would have liked, but we scrambled, we defended superbly.
“Matty Jurman and Jacques Faty were outstanding at the back. Rhyan Grant did a very good defensive job, Seb Ryall too and tactically the boys carried out the game plan.”
The pivotal play of the match came near the death, with Brandon O’Neill’s inch-perfect lofted pass finding Ninkovic on the edge of the box.
And the classy Serb did the rest, bringing it down with a silky first touch before going around one defender and burying his shot into the far, bottom corner.
Arnold lauded Ninkovic for the manner of his goal but also paid credit to youngster O’Neill, who continues to impress in the heart of midfield.
“He seems really calm, especially with that nice hairstyle he’s got, which doesn’t seem to change or move during the game,” Arnold said of O’Neill.
“He keeps doing fantastic and nothing fazes him. He’s thrilled to be out on the field, he’s thrilled to be around these type of players and he’s thrilled to be playing in front of a full house.
“Some young players can feel the pressure but he doesn’t. I’ve got every confidence in the kid to play him.”
The second biggest Sydney derby crowd of 40,539 made it another superb atmosphere inside Allianz Stadium, and Arnold couldn’t help but take a slight dig at a rival code.
“We should be very happy of the spectacle. The NRL have a preliminary semi-final here and they get 25,000,” he said.
“We’re round three of the A-League, Wanderers versus Sydney and we get 41,000.”