Sky Blues bounce back with touch of quality
SYDNEY FC are back in the groove, casting off their defeat to Perth by edging Adelaide United by 2-1 at Jubilee Stadium to tighten their grip on third spot.
Goals in each half from Siem de Jong and Jacob Tratt were enough to earn Sydney their eighth win of the season, and lift them three points clear of Melbourne City in fourth, at least until the latter play on Wednesday.
After the 3-1 defeat in Perth last Wednesday, the Sky Blues needed this victory, especially with Adelaide in sixth eyeing the chance to narrow the gap.
"Today was all about the defence - we conceded three goals in Perth and I wasn't pleased, but today I'm much happier," Sydney coach Steve Corica said. "Everyone else kept winning this weekend so it was important we did too. I wanted to see how the boys responded, and the most important thing was that we came away with three points."
Perhaps the arm-wrestle nature of the contest shouldn't have been a surprise, for just four points had separated Sydney and Adelaide, as well as three places on the ladder. But in the end Sydney found two moments of quality, especially the freekick with which De Jong opened the scoring.
Corica had signaled the need to rest players with the start of the Asian Champions League just weeks ago, Alex Brosque and Paulo Retre stepping down to the bench.
It meant a more advanced role for marquee man De Jong, and he responded with his second goal of the season on 13 minutes, though the Dutchman should not really have had the opportunity in the first place.
Nikola Mileusnic's tackle on Milos Ninkovic was judged a foul by referee Adam Kersey even though the United midfielder seemed to have taken nothing but ball in his challenge. De Jong sized up the freekick and struck the ball across the goal, into Izzo's top corner.
It was a good day for Sydney's setpiece portfolio, which produced the second goal on 48 minutes to increase Sydney's lead. Brandon O'Neill's corner had a strong dip as it flew to the near post, and Tratt met the ball with a thumping and unstoppable header.
To prove the adage about teams being vulnerable having just scored, Sydney were undone just seconds later by a hopeful ball forward.
The substitute George Blackwood, once on Sydney's books, chased it down and slipped past Aaron Calver into the box, going down under the challenge. The contact was soft but enough to earn a penalty for Adelaide, converted coolly by Craig Goodwin.
Sydney thought their buffer was restored soon after when de Jong shot home powerfully after a cute backheel from Adam Le Fondre, only for the VAR to correctly spot an offside in the build up.
Then Brosque, running riot off the bench, was put clear but volleyed wastefully wide with the goal gaping.
But the two goals - and a sharp save from Andrew Redmayne to deny Ryan Kitto in the last minute - proved enough, with Sydney turning their attentions to struggling Newcastle at Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.
Get every match of the 2018/19 Hyundai A-League LIVE. SIGN UP NOW!