‘His intelligence is at another level’ – Ninkovic earns Milicic praise in starring role against the Bulls

Macarthur FC head coach Ante Milicic says the quality possessed by Sydney FC star Milos Ninkovic was obvious to see after the Serbian midfielder proved a class above in Sydney's 3-0 win over the Bulls on Saturday night.

The 36-year-old came close to joining Milicic's side after a committed recruitment attempt in 2019 but Ninkovic chose to stay with Steve Corica and the Sky Blues, winning his third A-League Championship with the club in the 2019/20 campaign.

The ten-man Bulls held firm for over an hour of play at Campbelltown Stadium before the Sky Blues eventually broke their resolve; 18-year-old Patrick Wood scored the first and third of Sydney's three goals in relatively simple fashion but it was Ninkovic who applied the knockout blow to Macarthur with a simply magnificent solo run and goal.

MATCH REPORT: Macarthur FC 0-3 Sydney FC

When asked post-match whether Ninkovic's performance proved once again his worth as one of the league's best ever players, Milicic delivered an affirming response.

“I think that’s obvious – he’s quality,” Milicic said.

“Actually, [the Ninkovic goal] was probably the one goal that disappointed me, the second one.

“He had quality, but to slice through us like that, I felt maybe we could have had a bit more contact there, maybe take the yellow, but in the end he’s got that quality and he recognises those moments.

He’s the calming influencer for them. He creates a lot, his intelligence is at another level and the players around him look even better.

“He’s quality, we knew that – when they’ve got an extra player it’s just even more evident.

“Again, I'm disappointed with that goal in particular, but that’s just how it panned out for us.”

REPORT: Victory survive late Western United rally in deadlock draw
EXCLUSIVE: Confident 'Carlito' Armiento thriving under like-minded Garcia

Milos Ninkovic
Ninkovic nets a brilliant solo goal past Adam Federici

As Milicic dissected Ninkovic's ability to inflict defeat on his side on the night, he could just as easily have been praising the performance of his own player had the Serbian made the move from the Sky Blues to the A-League newcomers for their inaugural campaign.

But the move never eventuated, leaving Corica with a player he hopes will continue to fill his boots with similarly well-taken goals throughout the 2020/21 A-League campaign.

“Ninko is quality, you saw it again tonight,” Corica said.

“It was even a bit of a change of pace for him as well, straight through the middle.

“I was very pleased for him. I keep telling him to shoot and when he does, he scores, so I’m very happy for him as well.”

But the midfield ace wasn't the only player to impress Corica in the resounding win.

The Sky Blues boss left plenty of room for praise to be heaped on his young brigade of rising stars who all made their individual impacts on the game.

The likes of Joel King (20), Calem Nieuwenhof (19), Callum Talbot (19) and Jordan Swibel (21) all received plaudits from their boss for making their presence felt when the opportune moments arose, with a special mention saved for Wood – who emerged from the bench to score an unlikely brace. 

REPORT: Victory survive late Western United rally in deadlock draw
REACTION: Shotton's leadership shines but Brebner urges other Victory star to ‘do better’

GOAL: Wood scores first of two goals against the Bulls

“[Wood] coming on tonight and scoring two goals, I thought Niewenhof was excellent when he came on, and Callum Talbot, the right-back, this was his first game for the club. I think he’s only 18 or 19, so that’s great for him as well,” Corica added.

“Joel King I thought was excellent as well on the left full-back role there, he got forward a lot, he put a lot of balls into the box and I thought he did really well.

“The senior boys have a lot of experience as well at the back with [Ryan McGowan] and [Alex Wilkinson). Keeping a clean sheet tonight was important.”

Next Match

Macarthur FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, February 6
Campbelltown Stadium
Kick-off 7.10pm AEDT

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
Monday, February 8
Nestrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off 7.10pm AEDT