Talking Points: Are Sydney FC out of reach for Melbourne City and Perth Glory?
“There is no complacency - we want to just keep winning,” Steve Corica said as Sydney FC’s relentless ambition makes for bad news for the chasing pack in the Hyundai A-League Premiership race.
It’s going to take an almighty effort to reel in the Hyundai A-League’s top side after they took another big step to the Premiership with their 11th straight win in the Big Blue on Friday night.
The Sky Blues are now ten points clear atop the Hyundai A-League table following their emphatic 3-0 win over Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
They also hold a game in hand over second-placed Melbourne City, while last year’s Grand Final opponents Perth Glory are 12 points adrift of top spot – with those side’s challenge dented as they settled for a scoreless draw in Round 16.
Sydney are firing on all cylinders with Adam Le Fondre again on the score sheet in Round 16 to restore his advantage atop the Hyundai A-League Golden Boot charts, while Kosta Barbarouses and Alex Baumjohann also got amongst the goals as they go from strength-to-strength in their first Sky Blues campaign.
Defensively, things are on the up for the Sky Blues as well as they held their nerve in the pressure-cooker Big Blue atmosphere to post their first clean sheet of the new year.
Ryan McGowan goes from strength-to-strength in the heart of their defensive line – earning a place in the Round 16 Team of the Week – while goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne continues to prove up to task in the big moments.
The old adage is that defences win Premierships and it appears to be firmly in the mind of Corica as he plots his team’s path to season’s end.
“I was very pleased about the defensive effort today because we’ve spoken about it and I think that is one area we can definitely improve on and we did it today,” he said.
“[The] clean sheet was the most important thing, so that was great to see the boys work extremely hard for that getting the clean sheet.”
The Sky Blues 13 goals conceded this season is only one more goal than the league’s benchmark – Glory have conceded 12 – and coupled with their league-best return of 33 goals it’s getting harder to find the weakness in their Premiership push.
City and Glory find defensive positives but will they rue missed points?
It was a proverbial ‘six-pointer’ on Saturday for Melbourne City and Perth Glory in their quest to reel in the Sky Blues – unfortunately for both they ended up with just a single point each.
As a stand alone fixture there was still plenty to be happy with for both teams despite the lack of goals – Glory are now unbeaten in their past seven matches, while City are now unbeaten in their last four.
Further, City’s defensive frailties appear to have been reinforced with Scottish international Jack Hendry impressing in his Hyundai A-League debut at centre back, while Harrison Delbridge proved adept in switching to a wider defensive role.
“I want to congratulate our team about our defensive performance. We were very strong, we conceded not too many chances,” Melbourne City head coach Erick Mombaerts said.
For the Glory, it was business as usual at the back as they notched a fourth consecutive clean sheet – with Gregory Wuthrich again leading the Glory backline with a Team of the Week performance.
Adelaide are better with Troisi in the side
There were plenty of goals on offer on Sunday at Whitten Oval as Adelaide United welcomed James Troisi back into midfield and immediately ran rampant against Western United.
The Reds struck three goals in the opening 20 minutes to stun the hosts, who mounted a stirring fightback to level early in the second stanza before Adelaide came up trumps with a final strike from Nathan Konstandopoulos.
Key to the result was the midfield impact of Troisi, who notched a team-best 71 touches and 54 passes in just 72 minutes in his return from injury and showed his class with a perfectly-weighted pass to release George Blackwood in the lead-up to his side’s second goal.
All told the Reds delivered 27 attempts on goal throughout the match despite only finding the target with six of those, but it marks plenty of positive for Gertjan Verbeek’s side as they continue their search for consistency.
Riley McGree, who netted his side’s third goal, said of Troisi’s contribution, “He’s a quality player and he brings quality out in everyone else and that’s great.”
Are Fowler’s Roar finally starting to come good?
It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster for Robbie Fowler at the Brisbane Roar helm this season as he sought to blend a largely new team into an outfit that could meet supporters’ elevated expectations.
But things may finally be looking up for the Liverpool legend as his side dipped their toe into the Hyundai A-League top six on Saturday evening, before dropping back out again on other results to sit seventh.
The Roar squeaked home via a late own goal in a 1-0 away win against Central Coast Mariners but the main story was an increasingly organised defence that seems to have finally settled after notching a consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season.
The Roar are now five games unbeaten and have also posted back-to-back wins for the first time since March 2018 delivering them long-sought momentum.
“I think we’re in a good place at the minute,” Fowler said.
This ain't your typical Wellington Phoenix
There was a time when Wellington Phoenix were the great enigma of the Hyundai A-League – fluctuating between moments of brilliance and inexplicable lapses of form.
This is no longer the case as Ufuk Talay’s side showed the fortitude that makes them a strong finals series threat as they returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets.
After falling short of a new club record unbeaten run the week prior, all eyes were on the Nix response and they delivered in spades – holding out a desperate Jets side in the closing stages, but also making the most of their chances.
Ulises Davila continues to deliver up front as his 69th-minute match winner took his season’s tally into double digits, Cameron Devlin’s work rate again shone in midfield, while at the back Stefan Marinovic made six saves in an inspired performance.
“The boys dug deep and sometimes you got to do that to win the game,” Talay said post-match.