Sydney FC on the brink of historic three-peat

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Death, taxes and Sydney FC winning the A-League are three certain things in life. The two-time reigning A-League champions are on the cusp of becoming champions for the third time running, after beating Adelaide 2-1 to send themselves into yet another grand final.

Sydney’s squad was heavily depleted – missing three players to Socceroos duty – and their task was made tougher by a last-minute calf injury to star midfielder Milos Ninkovic, which ruled him out of the game. Players also had to contend with gale force winds and intense periods of rain throughout the match. Despite this, the two sides put on a show. In the end, first half goals from Adam le Fondre and Bobo proved the difference for Sydney – despite Adelaide mounting a noble second-half comeback.

Sydney head coach Steve Corica said he was extremely proud and the depth of the squad was shown by the players who came in for the their missing stars.

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“[I’m] very proud to be in another final. The boys where outstanding again tonight,” Corica said.

“The players who have come in have done a great job. We spoke about the depth in the squad and it’s really starting to show. We had Ninkovic out as well, one of our best players if not the best.

“Everyone knows their job, whoever steps in knows their role.

“The players that have come in have played two games and we have won both.”

Sydney showed their desire to reach another grand final from the opening whistle, with a dominant start. In the 24th minute, Sydney midfielder Alexander Baumjohann played in Kosta Barbarouses. The Kiwi pushed the ball past Adelaide goalkeeper James Delianov – who fouled Barbarouses in the process – and the Sky Blues were awarded a penalty.

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Le Fondre rarely misses penalties, and he made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending Delianov the wrong way to smash home his fourth goal of the season.

Just before half time, Sydney scored a crucial second goal. In the 43rd minute, midfielder Anthony Caceres switched play with a 30-yard pass to left back Joel King. The 20-year-old showed composure well past his years, picking out striker Bobo with a pinpoint pass. The Brazilian is a predatory goal machine and he was inexplicitly left unmarked. He made no mistake from the edge of the 6-yard box, finishing past Delianov to double Sydney’s lead.

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King has been a standout performer for Sydney this year, playing every game in the absence of injured Socceroo Michael Zullo, and Corica lauded the youngster after the game.

“[He was] outstanding defensively,” Corcia said.

“He is always improving and always working on his game. It was nice that he set up that goal for Bobo as well. He got forward and it was a great ball from him and a great assist. He’s really coming along well.”

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Sydney should have put the game to bed early in the second half when they were awarded another penalty, but le Fondre missed a rare spot kick, with Delianov attoning for his earlier error by making a superb diving save.

In the 64th minute, Adelaide scored through Spaniard Juande, who smashed home past Sydney goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle after meeting Tomi Juric’s deflected free kick.

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The goal inspired the Reds and they heaped pressure on Sydney’s goal, desperately searching for an equaliser to send the game into extra time.

In the end, Sydney’s makeshift defence stayed strong and they saw off the match to reach a third straight grand final. Corica admitted the end of the match was nervy, stating that le Fondre’s penalty miss was a turning point.

“The changing point was when Adam missed his pen,” he said

“They got a bit of confidence from that and started putting us under a bit of pressure, but defensively we were good.”

Sydney will now wait on Sunday’s game against Melbourne City and Macarthur FC to see who they will face in the grand final.

A third straight grand final win will etch Sydney’s name into Australian football folk law. It is a feat never achieved in Australian football history.

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Corica said he would be confident against either opponent.

“It doesn’t matter [who we play]. It’s a grand final,” Corica said.

“Tomorrow we watch the game, then we start planning our week and getting prepared for another grand final.”

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Adam Sheldon
Full time football addict. Passionate about any sport with balls. Covering Sydney FC A-League and W-League teams for the upcoming season.
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