Sydney FC veterans silence their critics as pressure eases on Corica

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Sydney FC’s first win of the A-League Men season saw a more energised Sky Blues outfit powered by Steve Corica’s triple substitution of star veterans.

Sydney finally got back to winning ways on Sunday after finding themselves without a win from their first four league games.

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The Sky Blues’ high-intensity performance most notably came in part from an unexpected source – a triple substitution of superstar veterans Milos Ninkovic, Bobo and Rhyan Grant with 25 minutes left on the clock.

The change, reminiscent of Corica’s triple switch from a week earlier, helped Sydney to see out a winning result against a fast-finishing Wellington Phoenix, as each player made a valuable contribution in the dying minutes of the match.

Ninkovic, in particular, showed glimpses of his younger self after smashing a shot against the upright in the game’s final stages.

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After checking out of the Mariners’ game from the previous week at half-time, injury concerns have been mounting for the star midfielder, to which the Sky Blues’ manager did not shy away when being asked about the concerns.

“Ninko gets a little bit of swelling in his knee (which) causes him a few problems,” Corica said.

“He’s had it drained a couple of times so we’ll just have to see how he pulls up after tonight and go forward from there.”

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The substitution also signalled the return of Rhyan Grant, after the right-back tested positive to COVID-19 less than two weeks ago. The 30-year-old, who has made 14 appearances for the Socceroos, was robbed of his sense of taste and smell after contracting the virus, joining a horror list of unavailable Sky Blue personnel which includes Kosta Barbarouses and Luke Brattan.

A short time after the match, Corica expressed his delight for having the experienced players take the field.

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“It’s not bad to have Ninko and Bobby,” he said.

“It was a surprise that he was on bench, but it’s good to have Rhyno back as well.”

The win for Sydney momentarily lifts the pressure off Corica and his experienced players, after the triple substitution against Central Coast last week saw each of the replacements fail to make an impact or overcome the two-goal deficit.

“Results haven’t been going our way so we needed to get back on track,” Corica said.

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After being subbed off an hour into the Mariners clash, 35-year-old Adam Le Fondre silenced his critics by finding the back of the net in the second half, as Sydney survived a late Wellington scare when Ben Waine cut the margin by half with seven minutes to go.

“Once they got that goal back it did put us under a little bit of pressure,” Corica said.

“But we showed a good performance (and) maybe could have won by a little bit more in the end.”

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Sydney will head into their FFA Cup quarter-final clash with Brisbane on Wednesday with an in-form Elvis Kamsoba, who has found the net once against Wellington and twice more across all competitions this season.

“He’s very lively, causing problems for defenders and that’s what we want from him,” Corica said.

“We knew he could produce that and he’s starting to show that now.”

Feature image credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Jimmy Alexander
Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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