Barbarouses nets winner as 10-man Sydney go nine points clear
Sydney FC will enter 2020 with a nine-point lead at the Hyundai A-League summit following the 10-man Sky Blues' gutsy 2-1 win over Melbourne City on Sunday.
The reigning Champions were made to come from behind in Kogarah after Connor Metcalfe thumped Craig Noone's cross past Andrew Redmayne to hand the visitors a shock lead.
Sydney suffered another blow when Rhyan Grant was received his marching orders in the 25th minute for a dangerous challenge on Nathaniel Atkinson, Sydney's first Hyundai A-League red card in over two years.
But Steve Corica's side rallied and four minutes later through top scorer Adam Le Fondre, who swivelled and fired a magnificent equaliser after a scramble inside the City box to draw the Sky Blues level.
Noone missed a glorious opportunity to restore City's lead one-on-one with Redmayne, and Le Fondre saw his spot-kick spectacularly saved by Tom Glover after Milos Ninkovic won a penalty on the cusp of half time.
Despite a promising start to the second half, in which Adrian Luna's bicycle kick flashed agonisingly wide, City could not make their numerical advantage count and were frustrated by a resolute Sydney outfit.
And their frustrations were compounded when Kosta Barbarouses stepped inside Atkinson and bent an unlikely winner past Glover, Sydney now unbeaten in their last eight.
Metcalfe sends a warning shot
A absorbing opening at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium was almost taken up another level when Connor Metcalfe let fly from the edge of the Hyundai A-League Champions' penalty area.
The City midfielder started the move, which went through Craig Noone and Jamie Maclaren, before taking his opportunity to shoot on goal under pressure from a gang of Sky Blues defenders.
The effort seemed to beat goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne but the ball whistled past the outside of the Sydney FC goalpost as City threatened to strike first blood.
Metcalfe does not miss this time
Melbourne City breathed new life into the race for the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate by taking the lead on enemy territory.
After a short corner routine changed the angle of delivery, Craig Noone's cross found Metcalfe on the edge of the six-yard box and the 20-year-old got the jump on Alexander Baumjohann.
Metcalfe powered in his second Hyundai A-League goal, and City's hopes grew further when Rhyan Grant was sent off for a horror lunge on Nathaniel Atkinson.
Ten-man Sydney not behind for long
They may have been down a player but Steve Corica's troops were only behind for four minutes.
It was, who else but, Hyundai A-League Golden Boot leader Adam Le Fondre who was on the spot to fire in the equaliser at 1-1 after a goal-mouth scramble.
It could have been avoided had Melbourne City goalkeeper Tom Glover not flapped at Baumjohann's free-kick. Milos Ninkovic took two bites at the loose ball, but Le Fondre made no mistake to become only the third Sydney FC play to score 30 goals in a Sky Blue jersey.
Glover denies Le Fondre to redeem himself
The Sky Blues were not playing like a team with 10 players and, when Ninkovic twisted and turned through the City defence, all Harrison Delbridge could do was the send the Serbian tumbling.
Le Fondre placed the ball on the spot and took aim but Glover made amends for his earlier error, throwing out an out-stretched leg, to thwart the league's top marksman.
The 22-year-old shot-stopper had to recover as a clutch of players raced to the loose ball but City survived the scare, keeping themselves on level terms heading into the second half.
Acrobatic Luna comes close
Trying to make their extra player count in the second half, Melbourne City looked to turn the screw.
The visitors were having most joy when the Sky Blues were stretched in wide areas and, when South American midfielder Javier Cabrera saw Adrian Luna in the box, a chance opened up.
The Uruguayan met his compatriot's cross with a spectacular overhead volley, making good connection, but his bicycle kick flashed across the face of Andrew Redmayne's goal.
Sydney FC v Adelaide United
Saturday, 4 January 2020
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT
Melbourne City v Western United
Friday, 3 January 2020
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT