A late goal from Socceroo Matthew Leckie has given Melbourne City a last-minute 2-1 victory in the grand final rematch against Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes, Sydney had the first big chance of the game when Melbourne City keeper Tom Glover came rushing off his line to meet a loose ball; Adam Le Fondre got there first, however he was unable to direct his lobbed shot towards the goal.
The returning Milos Ninkovic would have Sydney’s best chance of the half when his well placed shot forced Tom Glover into a save at full-stretch after 31 minutes.
However, just when Sydney looked like they were gaining control, the champions would hit them with a sucker punch counter attack from the resulting corner. Jamie Maclaren had broken away and found Andrew Nabbout. He then squared it to Matthew Leckie, and whilst his shot was straight at Andrew Redmayne, it ricocheted a retreating Paulo Retre and rolled into an empty net.
Sydney would grab a deserved equaliser just after half-time, as Ninkovic capitalised off some poor City defending off a corner and lashed the ball past Glover. And he could have put them ahead just two minutes later, but he spurned the golden opportunity, his shot sailing high and into The Cove.
The game opened up much more in the second half as both sides made attacking substitutions in an attempt to find the winning formula, and it would eventually be the away side that would find a late winner as Matthew Leckie drilled a shot from outside the box and past Redmayne via the post.
SLOW START FOR CITY
Melbourne City were one of the league’s in form teams coming into this game, winning four of their last five matches and playing some great football along the way.
However, they struggled to get up to speed at a rainswept Kogarah. A stubborn Sydney defence kept them largely at bay for the first half an hour, and Mustafa Amini and Paulo Retre held their own against City’s classy midfield, disrupting the rhythm of Connor Metcalfe and Florin Berenguer.
They did get the first goal of the match, albeit with a huge slice of fortune, and this did inspire an improvement going forward in the last 15 minutes, but they were fortunate that Sydney were unable to capitalise on their chances.
Given similar slow starts in previous matches, it is something that Patrick Kisnorbo’s side need to address as they get closer to the finals.
SAME OLD STORY FOR SYDNEY
It is becoming a recurring theme for Sydney this season. This was another game where they had more of the possession and created the better chances in the first half, yet they found themselves 1-0 down.
Sydney’s inability to break down defences when they are on top of the opposition has cost them many points so far this season, and their lack of a cutting edge reared its ugly head once again on Saturday night.
They possess game-breaking players in Ninkovic, Le Fondre and Anthony Caceres, and Elvis Kamsoba has been a lovely addition to their attack. Yet their attack at times can look lost and aimless, especially when they continuously pass the ball around the box in front of the defence.
Led by stalwart Ninkovic, they did recover after half-time grabbing an early equaliser, however they soon reverted to type and were burned by a late winner from Leckie. the fact that Steve Corica has failed to sort out the issue this far into the season is a poor reflection on a coach who celebrated his 100th game in charge of Sydney.
HOME NOT SO SWEET HOME
In seasons’ gone by travelling away to Sydney was a fearsome challenge for any team, even the incumbent champions, yet the Sky Blues are feeling the blues on their own patch this season.
More dropped points in front of their own fans; the loss was their third at home. Alonside four draws and only two wins, Sydney have only picked up nine points out of a possible 24 at home.
There is no way to sugar coat the fact that it is not the form of a team that is going to make a massive impact at the business end of the season. Where there was once a supreme confidence surrounding Sydney, there is now doubt and a fallibility that any side in the league no matter their form will be able to get confidence boosting points in the Harbour City.
With Sydney by no means guaranteed of finals football, failure to amend this glaring issue could have massive consequences for the club and coach Steve Corica.
A-League Men: Round 16, Nestrata Jubilee Stadium
Sydney FC 1 (Ninkovic 53m)
Melbourne City 1 (Retre OG 32m, Leckie 90+1m)