A goal from Milos Ninkovic has Sydney FC in the box seat to progress to the knockout phase of the AFC Champions League after recording a 1-0 win over the Pohang Steelers on Tuesday night.
The Serbian broke the deadlock from close range shortly after the interval following some good lead up play from youngsters Brandon O’Neill and Andrew Hoole.
The Sky Blues controlled the match there after - and should’ve extended the margin in what was an at times spiteful affair at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The three points sees Graham Arnold’s side maintain their lead at the top of Group H with a home clash against the Urawa Reds and trip to China to face Guangzhou Evergrande to decide their fate.
It was a nervous start from the home side, epitomised by Ali Abbas’ heavy back pass that had hearts fluttering in the Cove when it whizzed past Vedran Janjetovic and out for a corner.
Sydney FC dominated possession as the match progressed however failed to register a shot on target in opening stanza as they struggled to break down their South Korean opposition.
The best chance of the opening half came when Ninkovic chipped the defence with David Carney bursting through but the former Socceroo fired his first-time shot over the crossbar.
It was a different story after the break when Ninkovic was played through on goal by a nicely weighted pass from Hoole.
The ball appeared to get stuck at the midfielder’s feet as he threaded his way to goal but just when the chance appeared lost Ninkovic was able to dig out a shot that found its way past the Steelers’ goalkeeper.
The Sky Blues went close to doubling their lead when Matt Jurman cracked a volley from the right side of the box but Kim Jinyoung was this time able to parry away the danger.
Substitute George Blackwood had a chance smothered in extra-time that would’ve sealed the three points but more importantly the home side held strong in defence to see out the match.
The final scoreline mirrored the result between the two sides when they met at the Steelyard last month and was Sydney FC’s third win in the group taking them to nine points.
A solitary goal from Yuki Muto saw the Urawa Reds defeat Guangzhou Evergrande in the other Group H fixture on matchday 4 leaving the defending champions on the brink of elimination.
It means a point from their last two matches will be enough to ensure the Sky Blues advance to the Round of 16 for the first time in the club’s history.
Sydney FC 1 (Ninkovic 51')
Pohang Steelers 0
Crowd: 5642 at Sydney Football Stadium