Ninkovic hails Sydney FC for coming out firing against Glory
Sydney FC goalscorer Milos Ninkovic praised his teammates for shaking of their end-of-season hangover and coming out blazing in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
The four-time Champions claimed their first win in 40 days with a 2-0 Semi Final triumph over Perth Glory to earn their a chance to lift a record-breaking fifth competition title in Sunday’s Grand Final against Melbourne City.
Steve Corica’s side held a 13-point lead over second-placed City in the race for the Premiers Plate heading into the league’s restart but after Sydney claimed only a single win from six matches – way back on July 17 – the Victorians closed the gap to six points in the final standings.
After 11 days without a match, questions were asked how the newly-crowned Premiers would respond when they walked out under bright lights of the Finals Series at Bankwest Stadium and Ninkovic admits his side knew they had to raise their game.
“In the last few weeks, we didn’t play like we wanted but I think we showed a great performance, especially in the first half, and I think we deserved to win,” Ninkovic said.
“I think in the first half we kept the ball very well. I think in the second half we didn’t keep the ball. To be honest, when you’re 2-0 up and in the semi-final, you don’t want to risk too much.”
Ninkovic opened the scoring with an instinctive close-range finish and Adam Le Fondre seized on a Liam Reddy howler to double the advantage as the Harbour City side overwhelmed Tony Popovic’s team in a sensational first-half showing.
But, after Joel Chianese missed a clear chance to pull a goal back and Bruno Fornaroli watched his angled strike bounce off both posts, Sydney's English striker admits the second half did not go exactly to plan.
“Second half we were a little bit disappointed, we dropped a little bit and invited the pressure but we’re looking forward to the final now,” Le Fondre said.
He added: “We set out to go back-to-back this season and that’s the plan. Hopefully we can do that on Sunday.”
Captain Alex Wilkinson believes the opening 45 minutes was the best football the defending Champions have played since the competition resumed from the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
“From the first minute, you could tell we were on. I thought we dominated that first half really well,” said Wilkinson.
“We pinned them in, kept the ball, got in behind them, created chances, it was the best we played since we came back.
“And then the second half, they are 2-0 and they’ve got to come out and press and box.
“We didn’t keep the ball as well as we would have liked but there were opportunities when they were all pushing forward to get in behind them and punish them.
“That’s something we need to get better at for Sunday and all-in-all we’re just happy to be in another Grand Final.”
Sydney’s flying right-back Rhyan Grant was a relentless presence in attack and defence for the Sky Blues and the Socceroo revealed that vigour was a focus of their preparations.
“Of late we haven’t been at our best and I think the biggest thing was the intensity and the enthusiasm,” Grant said.
“I think we started off really well and really strongly, we were in their faces.... I think that intensity is what we’re good at and it set us up really well for the rest of the game.”
And the 29-year-old is expecting another high-tempo battle as the Premiers take on second-placed City in the big dance on Sunday.
“It’ll be a great game,” Grant added. “We’ve have some good games against them this season.”
“It’s the Grand Final so anything can happen.”
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2020
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
When: Sunday, August 30
Kick-off: 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView