Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold issued a warning to the rest of the Hyundai A-League by declaring his top-of-the-table Sky Blues have plenty of upside following Friday night’s 0-0 draw against the Reds at Coopers Stadium.
Arnold conceded the scoreboard stalemate was played largely on United’s terms but was delighted with his team’s defence and character to emerge with a hard-fought road point.
“I’ve got to be honest, I think they (Adelaide) had more of the game,” Arnold admitted.
“It’s not our job to entertain when we’re away from home.
“If you pick up a point every time you go away from home, then we’re going to be happy.
“I always look at the positives - our defence was strong, our character was good and there’s so much upside to us.
“I think Adelaide are at their best, I think Melbourne Victory are close to their best and we’ve got a lot to go.
“I’d say we’re probably at 80 percent defensively and 50 percent with the ball with the style I want to play.”
The Blues’ razor-sharp defence, led by outstanding goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic, rose to the occasion time and time again against the Reds’ potent attack.
It’s a marked and calculated improvement from last season’s leaky back third which, statistically, was the competition's fourth-worst.
“All I’ve tried to do in the first three months (as coach) is build a strong defence,” said Arnold, who replaced Frank Farina as Sydney manager during the off-season.
“They conceded goals last year.
“That’s three clean sheets in a row for us. It’s the first time in the history of the club that we’ve had three clean sheets in a row.
“We’ve worked a lot on our defence.”
Despite Adelaide’s dominance, the visitors can count themselves desperately unfortunate.
In the 15th minute, big Austrian Marc Janko scooted past Nigel Boogaard inside the box and delivered a cross that appeared to be handballed by Reds left-back Craig Goodwin.
Then in the 68th, acting captain Nikola Petkovic rifled a 30m free kick that slammed into the back of the net, only to have the goal disallowed by referee Alan Miliner, who said he wasn’t ready.
Arnold believes Sydney copped the raw end both times.
“The boys said with Petkovic’s that he (Miliner) pointed to halfway for it to be a goal … then when the Adelaide players rushed to him, he changed his mind,” Arnold said.
“Goodwin’s was definitely a handball.
“I had the Fox (Sports) people and SBS people sitting just behind me and they said it was a handball.
“But they had their chances as well.”