Buhagiar breaks Phoenix hearts as Sydney FC close in on Premiers' Plate
A quickfire double from substitute Trent Buhagiar has handed Sydney FC a 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix as the Hyundai A-League returned with a bang on Friday night.
The Sky Blues trailed 1-0 just after the hour-mark via a penalty from Reno Piscopo but stormed home in the wet at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Adam Le Fondre started the fightback, converting a penalty of his own to take his tally for the season to 18 goals and draw level in the Golden Boot race with Melbourne City’s Jamie Maclaren.
But it was super-sub Buhagiar who had the biggest impact with two late goals to break Phoenix hearts.
Buhagiar scored in the 88th and 90th minutes as he used his pace and composure to notch both goals, with the Sky Blues now needing just one more point from their final five matches to clinch a record fourth Premiership.
And they could do it as early as Tuesday night when they take on Newcastle Jets in Kogarah.
While Phoenix will be disappointed with the result, coach Ufuk Talay won’t be too disheartened as his side pushed the home side all the way in an absorbing contest.
Brattan tests Marinovic from range
Wellington had the better of the early exchanges but it was the Sky Blues who got the first shot on target just after the quarter-hour mark.
A spell of concerted pressure from the hosts – and some pinball in the box - ended with Luke Brattan firing off a powerful strike from distance which Phoenix gloveman Stefan Marinovic did well to parry away from goal.
‘Nix keeper denies Brattan again
Kosta Barbarouses won a free-kick on the edge of the box, giving Brattan to resume his personal battle with Phoenix shot-stopper Marinovic.
Brattan’s free-kick beat the well and had plenty of velocity behind it but Marinovic was well-positioned to tip the ball over the bar to ensure scores would remain level at the break.
Phoenix edge in front from the spot
Liberato Cacace did superbly down the left and drove to the byline where he was bundled over by a clumsy tackle from Ryan McGowan.
Referee Chris Beath had no choice but to point to the penalty spot, with Piscopo taking on the responsibility to coolly slot past Redmayne.
It was Piscopo’s final contribution of the night, replaced by Gary Hooper straight after giving his side the lead.
Le Fondre draws Sydney level
Just when Wellington looked to be in control the handed – quite literally – the Sky Blues a lifeline back into the match.
Substitute Ulises Davila tried to control an awkward bouncing ball just inside his own penalty area, with the ball striking his arm and Beath immediately pointed to the spot.
Sydney’s leading scorer Le Fondre thundered his spot-kick past Marinovic for his 18th goal of the campaign.
Sub Buhagiar makes a timely impact
After Milos Ninkovic won possession in his own half, the Serbian played a delightful through-ball with the outside of his right foot to release Buhagiar.
Keeper Stefan Marinovic came charging off his line but was beating to the ball by the Sydney flyer, who showed great composure to settle himself before rolling the ball past defender Steven Taylor on the line.
Buhagiar makes it two in two minutes
Another swift counter attack from the Sky Blues ends with Buhagiar completing his brace.
This time it was Le Fondre releasing Buhagiar free on goal, and while his first effort was parried by Marinovic, Buhagiar stayed alive and dinked the rebound over the gloveman and into the net.
- Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets
When: Tuesday, July 21
Where: Nestrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 7.30pm (AEST)
- Perth Glory v Wellington Phoenix
When: Wednesday, July 22
Where: Bankwest Stadium
Kick-off: 7.30pm (AEST)