Sydney started fairly well, with some nice attacking play and a clear directive to try and get the ball into the box using pace. Reza Ghoochannejhad opened the scoring following some superb play between himself, Anthony Caceres, Rhyan Grant, and Adam le Fondre. The Iranian nailed his finish and it was a big monkey off the back following some missed chances over the weeks.
Adelaide nearly equalised as the death of the first half, with George Blackwood's elegant chip being headed off the line by Alex Wilkinson to preserve the lead.
Adelaide tried hard to fashion chances and get into positions to score, but ultimately they lacked any sort of striker. Goodwin got on the ball often enough but failed to really live up to his previous exploits against Sydney.
With about a minute to go of stoppage time, Brandon O'Neill found himself leading the counter attack with Ivanovic to the left of him, Devlin to the right - choosing the latter option for the pass - to see Cameron Devlin score his first A-League goal with a clinical finish. All 3 points sealed for the Sky Blues at Leichhardt.
But what did we learn from tonight?
1) Strong finish
While the substitutions were a tad too late for my liking, I thought they very very clearly turned the tide against Adelaide and meant we could hold out. The Reds not being quite sure how to handle players like Ivanovic and Devlin causes them to think twice every time one of them gets on the ball. Luke Ivanovic is a very exciting player to watch, he really goes for everything and I'd love to see him start more matches - especially with how just sort of just okay Anthony Caceres has been. Cameron Devlin was smart in his cameo, some clever use of the ball and won several fouls - before scoring the goal to seal the match. A great finish from the youngster and it's great seeing our academy players get some time.
2) Hospital balls
Watching Sydney is really odd. They look like they could be winning matches by quite a few if they played the ball faster, and were just a bit more turned on in general. Nearly every attacking move started or ended with the ball finding its way back to Wilkinson or Warland. Often too Rhyan Grant had acres of room out wide but they just never played it to him. Instead, they opted for a hospital ball in a triangle of players.
3) Clean sheets
That was Sydney's sixth clean sheet of the season - mighty impressive considering there have been 4 different versions of our centre back duo, and with our right-back spot being occupied by 3 different players. Importantly, it seems Redmayne has really gotten into a rhythm of late. He is clearly more vocal and much better organisationally than he was 2 years back. His improvement has been brilliant to see.
4) Under Pressure
With that win, there is now just a 5 point gap to the top of the table. Whilst I personally cannot see us actually winning the Premier's Plate this year, it still keeps pressure on Perth to continue performing. With a game against Melbourne City who are so dull and joyless they might just fall to the level of their opposition and drop some points. As for us, we still have two big games left in our calendar - Victory at home, and Glory at home.
5) Asia, be afraid?
Alright let me be clear: We aren't brilliant or silky or as dynamic as previous years BUT we are grinding out results and have some firepower on the bench. If we set up similar to tonight against Ulsan and cut out the dumb mistakes, and finish those chances I really think we could get the points. Reza as a player is so clearly a step above this league and I reckon he'll be our ticket to any success in Asia.
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I thought getting 11,000 in attendance on a Friday night was really quite good, and there was a great atmosphere to the place. Leichhardt Oval as a place to watch football really is pretty great. Back to Kogarah however for Wednesday night against Ulsan Hyundai in our opening Champions League match.
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Final score: Sydney FC (2). def. Adelaide United (0)
MOTM: Brandon O'Neill
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