Sydney FC’s attack often commands the headlines, but defender Ryan McGowan says the defending Champions’ backline is showing its mettle through the busy Christmas-New Year period.
The Sky Blues posted a record-breaking 10th straight Hyundai A-League home win on Saturday night as they saw off a spirited Adelaide United 2-1 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
The win restored a nine-point advantage atop the competition standings for Steve Corica’s side but also produced its share of nervy moments as the Sky Blues failed to put the contest to bed in the second half.
A pair of quick-fire goals from Paulo Retre in the 20th and 26th minutes laid the platform for a possible Sydney runaway, however, Adelaide rallied and pulled a goal back through Riley McGree prior to half-time.
The second half saw the Reds continue to threaten Sydney’s defensive third but, despite Jordan Elsey’s wasteful close-range miss shortly after the hour, the Sky Blues defence proved adept at absorbing the pressure.
With high temperatures at the kick-off – and a strong wind rolling in to close the contest – McGowan told Fox Sports his side's more defensive posture proved crucial to seeing out the result.
“We didn’t start well but then came into the game, scored two really good goals and then switched off from a set piece, which is really disappointing for us,” McGowan said.
“The rest of the game we sat in, soaked up a lot of pressure and tried to catch them on the break.”
He added: “Obviously it was really hot to start the game and [we needed] to conserve our energy and wait until the half-way line to start engaging.”
Working in partnership with fellow centre-half Alex Wilkinson, McGowan and the Sydney defence saw off 38 crosses from the Reds throughout the match.
He explained the opportunity to forge a formidable defensive combination with the Sky Blues captain was key to his off-season move to the Harbour City following over a decade in European and Asian competitions.
“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back because I knew I would be next to Wilko and the experience that he brings.
“The first few weeks of the season we were probably spectators, but the last couple of weeks we have had to dig in.”
McGowan also pointed to the showing of young full-backs Joel King and Harry Van der Saag, who stepped into the line-up for the suspended Rhyan Grant, as crucial to the result.
“The two young full backs, I thought done really well considering they are not regulars,” he said.
After starting for the Sky Blues in their pre-season clash with Paris St Germain, Van der Saag said he felt comfortable transitioning to his first Hyundai A-League start – but still pointed to the support of close friend King.
“We are very close mates. It was very special tonight to play with Joel and I was very happy,” Van der Saag said.
Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC
Friday, 10 January 2020
McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT