Lethal Le Fondre at the double to send Sydney FC top
Adam Le Fondre fired Sydney FC to the top of the Hyundai A-League as the Sky Blues punished a toothless Western United in a 2-0 away win.
The Champions surged two points clear of Melbourne City, who are on a bye week, with a convincing victory against a side without a goal in more than five hours of football.
The Englishman’s header from Alex Baumjohann’s 27th-minute corner edged the Sky Blues ahead and he netted again from the inspirational German’s cut-back in first-half stoppage time.
Mark Rudan’s side controlled 61% of possession at GMHBA Stadium but failed to register a shot on target until the 82nd minute, recording only two shots on goal from their 21 attempts.
Coming off back-to-back defeats and facing a Sky Blues side in scorching form with five wins from six, Western United were able to neutralise Corica's side early on.
Sydney FC had barely ventured forward until Baumjohann worked Filip Kurto from distance in the 12th minute, before a head injury to Ryan McGowan prompted a lengthy delay which seemed to puncture the home side’s flow.
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Kosta Barbarouses caught Josh Risdon out of position and his dangerous cross thundered towards goal off Aaron Calver as Western United survived a scare, but the home side did not survive Baumjohann’s 27th-minute corner.
The German’s deep, swinging delivery was met by Le Fondre, who lost marker Connor Chapman at the far post and nodded in his fifth goal in seven Hyundai A-League matches.
Dario Jertec fired a warning shot narrowly wide of Andrew Redmayne’s post but Le Fondre pounced again for his sixth of the season after Baumjohann’s scintillating run and cross deep into the time added on by McGowan’s earlier treatment.
Left out after his substitution blow up last week, Besart Berisha was introduced at half-time but, after Kosta Barbarouses almost bent in a third, a stifled Western United were restricted to Chapman’s long-range effort on 68 minutes.
Goalkeeper Filip Kurto kept the Green and Black in the game six minutes later by clawing away Rhyan Grant’s improvised header but the closest Rudan’s side came was a curling 82rd-minute effort from Panagiotis Kone which was saved comfortably by Redmayne.
Substitute Dylan Pierias snatched at two late chances as Western United were unable to break their drought, as Corica's men racked up either eighth win from their last nine games in Victoria.
Le Fondre pounces to break the deadlock
Sydney FC had been growing into the game after Western United dominated the opening exchanges and English marksman Adam Le Fondre made his moment count.
German playmaker Alex Baumjohann's deep, swinging corner was met by the Sky Blues striker, who had ghosted to the back post.
His marker, Connor Chapman, could do nothing to stop Le Fondre making contact with the header as he celebrated his sixth Hyundai A-League goal in seven games in 2019/20.
Le Fondre strikes again after superb Baumjohann assist
The Sky Blues hitman did not need a second look.
Baumjohann provided the magic, once again, with a stampeding run in behind Connor Pain on the Sydney FC right and the German cut the ball back for the Englishman lurking at the far post.
One touch and goal. Le Fondre moves up to third in Sydney FC's all-time goal-scorers list with his 25th strike for the Harbour City club.
Barbarouses almost gets in on the act
Western United were nearly the masters of their own downfall only minutes after the restart.
Alessandro Diamanti seemed to be expecting a free-kick after he was bumped off the ball but the Kiwi international had no intention of waiting for a whistle.
Eyeing up the top corner, Barbarouses bent his shot goal-wards and, with Filip Kurto beaten, the ball whistled past the woodwork.
Kurto keeps Western United in the game
The home side were fighting to stay in the game with the clock ticking closer to the 90, but Filip Kurto kept their chances alive from a corner.
Rhyan Grant reacted fastest after the set piece deflected up off his Catlex Socceroos teammate Josh Risdon and the Polish shot-stopper had to claw away Grant's improvised back-header.
McGowan put the ball back into danger zone but Rudan's side lived to fight another day.