Milos Ninkovic has made himself an instant Sydney FC hero, scoring an 88th-minute winner as the Sky Blues prevailed 1-0 over Western Sydney Wanderers in a feisty derby on Saturday night.
A sensational crowd of 40,539 crammed into Allianz Stadium – the second biggest ever Sydney derby attendance – and they were treated to a pulsating clash with a thrilling finish.
Just as it looked like it would end goalless, Ninkovic pounced to score his first Sky Blues goal to give Sydney FC Harbour City bragging rights for the fourth time in their last five meeting.
The win takes Graham Arnold’s side top of the Hyundai A-League, while the Wanderers are still searching for their first win of the new season.
1-0 Ninkovic (88’) – The Wanderers looked to have cleared a Sydney FC attack only for Brandon O’Neill to play a clever chip over the top to Ninkovic. The Serbian’s first touch was sublime, taking it down and past Nikolai Topor-Stanley before burying his shot across Andrew Redmayne and into the far, bottom corner.
A cagey opening 45 minutes looked to be finishing with the visitors on top and they thought they had a goal in first-half stoppage time.
The impressive Mitch Nichols played a cross in from the left and found the head of Jaushua Sotirio, who flicked his header brilliantly into the far corner.
But before he could wheel away to celebrate their joy was cut-short by an offside flag. Replays suggested it was line-ball and could have gone either way.
It was a blow for the visitors, who were then sunk at the death by Ninkovic’s winner.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Sydney FC has now extended their unbeaten derby run to five matches, winning four of those.
It’s also the first time they have kept the Wanderers scoreless in nine meetings, going back to the very first derby three years ago.
The Wanderers have now failed to keep a clean-sheet in 16 straight Hyundai A-League matches, the clubs worst-ever run.
What a sight it was inside Allianz Stadium as more than 40,000 fans flocked in to see these two sides of Sydney go to battle.
While the action on the pitch failed to reach any great heights, the atmosphere and colour provided by both sets of supporters was first-class.
Neither let up for the whole 90 minutes, providing a cacophony of noise and another great advertisement for this derby and the Hyundai A-League.
The Wanderers were forced into an early change as dangerous winger Romeo Castelen lasted less than eight minutes before he was forced off with a hamstring injury. The visitors also lost defender Scott Neville just after the break also with a leg problem.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Wanderers marquee man Federico Piovaccari came to the club with a lot of wraps but for the third game in a row he failed to deliver.
Whether it’s the quality of the service or his own performance, something just isn’t clicking for the big Italian. Sydney’s central defender Matt Jurman and Jacques Faty both got the better of Piovaccari over the 90 minutes.
How long does Popovic persist before maybe looking at another option in attack?
THE FINAL WORD
They left it late but Sydney FC finally managed to put their inconsistent home form behind them with the late winner. The Sky Blues are on the road next weekend and involved in a third NSW derby in as many weeks as they head up the F3 to take on Central Coast Mariners on Saturday afternoon.
Western Sydney’s wait for a first win goes on but they will feel they are still in pretty good nick despite having just one point from three matches. The Wanderers return to Pirtek Stadium to take on Westfield FFA Cup finalists Perth Glory on Sunday.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Faty, Jurman, Grant, O’Neill, Dimitrevic (Tavares 61’), Ninkovic, Holosko (Hoole 61’), Brosque, Smeltz (Simon 73’)
Western Sydney Wanderers: Redmayne, Neville (Hamill 53’), Alberto, Topor-Stanley, Jamieson, Andreu, Dimas, Castelen (Vidosic 12’), Nichols (Bridge 82’), Sotirio, Piovaccari
Scorers: Ninkovic 88’
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Dimitrijevic 36’, Neville 38’, Faty 65’, Ninkovic 89’
Conditions: 21C, Fine
Attendance: 40,539 @ Allianz Stadium