Sydney FC have buried their Adelaide United hoodoo in emphatic fashion, holding off a late Reds surge to win 4-1 at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night to book a Hyundai A-League grand final meeting with Premiers Melbourne Victory.
An early Bernie Ibini goal and a brace from skipper Alex Brosque either side of half-time had the Sky Blues in cruise control before the Reds produced a late flurry of chances.
Craig Goodwin closed the gap 16 minutes from time and it sparked a spirited fightback from the visitors.
Nigel Boogaard hit the post while Awer Mabil, Miguel Palanca and Sergio Cirio all wasted glorious opportunities in a frentic few minutes which would have set up a grandstand finish.
Instead it was the Sky Blues who finished with a bang, Chris Naumoff capping a sublime performance with a late goal to send Sydney FC to their first decider in five years.
WHAT THEY SAID
“All week I’ve had a really good feeling, I don’t know why but I’ve just got so much confidence in this team. I knew the boys would come out tonight and there wasn’t a player who didn’t work his socks off. It was a fantastic performance and the crowd was brilliant.” – Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque
“We didn’t give up but at this level you can’t give a team like Sydney a head start like we did. We were always going to come here and attack so it’s just disappointing. It’s not every year you get to play in a semi-final so it’s disappointing but credit to Sydney.” – Adelaide United’s Nigel Boogaard
1-0 Ibini (19’) – A lofted pass forward by Nikola Petkovic saw Naumoff get in behind the Reds defence down the left wing. The teenager raced into the box, got around Dylan McGowan brilliantly before cutting the ball back to Ibini, who finished powerfully into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
2-0 Brosque (45+1’) – Milos Dimitrijevic drove at the Reds defence before finding Ibini on the right. Ibini sent in a perfect cross to the near-post and Brosque did the rest, producing an audacious back-heeled flick which snuck past Eugene Galekovic at the near post.
3-0 Brosque (47’) – Naumoff was again involved, slipping a pass to Marc Janko – who was slightly offside – in the box. The Austrian was disposed by Isaias but the loose ball fell to Brosque who finished clinically into the far corner.
3-1 Goodwin (74’) – The Reds broke forward on a quick counter-attack and had a three-on-three with Goodwin surging right through the heart of the Sydney defence. He swerved past the challenge of Matt Jurman and his shot squeezed under Vedran Janjetovic and trickled over the line.
4-1 Naumoff (90’) – Naumoff found Antonis about 25 yards from goal and continued his run forward, getting a return pass and smashing it high into Galekovic’s net.
Inside the first 10 minutes Sydney defender Sebastian Ryall put in a crunching challenge on Reds playmaker Marcelo Carrusca which incensed his Adelaide team-mates. Ryall escaped a caution but it set the tone for an imposing performance by the Sky Blues, who were intent not to be bullied by the visitors this time. Carrusca was largely ineffectual on the contest after that point, until it was too late for the Reds.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The victory was just Sydney FC’s second in their last 10 Hyundai A-League finals matches, and first over Adelaide United in seven attempts.
With his goal it means Ibini has scored in four successive matches while Brosque has scored a brace in three out of his last four matches.
Adelaide appeared like they would get to the break just a goal down until the Sydney skipper produced a moment of magic. Ibini’s cross was a little bit behind Brosque but he had the presence of mind to try a cheeky effort with his right foot – flicking in behind his left – which caught Galekovic by surprise. It was pure genius from Brosque and a goal that broke the Reds’ hearts.
In his first Hyundai A-League finals match, the performance of Naumoff also caught the eye. He produced a scintillating run early on where he sliced through three defenders and shot just wide before setting up Ibini’s opener soon after. His goal at the death was the cherry on top of a sweet display. The 19-year-old has arrived!