Steve Corica has Sydney FC on target ahead of the finals. Picture: Getty
Steve Corica has Sydney FC on target ahead of the finals. Picture: Getty

Sky Blues take all the glory at new fortress

SYDNEY FC might be displaced from Allianz Stadium but their home comforts are growing at the most crucial time of the season.

Victory over premiers Perth brought the Sky Blues to the brink of securing second spot on the table, Adam Le Fondre's 16th goal of the season enough to inflict only Glory's third defeat of the campaign.

Should Melbourne Victory fail to beat Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Friday night, Sydney will be assured of finishing second in Steve Corica's first season in charge.

With a semi-final or elimination final to come at Jubilee Oval, Sydney look very comfortable at their Kogarah base, recording their fifth win in a row at the venue.

As importantly this was a win to show the Sky Blues mettle in a putative grand final preview.

If Glory were demonstrably flat after the emotion of winning the Premiers' Plate on Sunday, Sydney still matched them every step of the way.

"We needed three points to put pressure on Melbourne Victory, but this game was also a mental one," Corica said.

"That means we've beaten Perth twice in three games now this season. Glory have had a very good season but our guys were sensational tonight.

"Perth didn't have a shot on target, and defensively we were outstanding."

Adam Le Fondre was on target yet again for the Sky Blues.
Adam Le Fondre was on target yet again for the Sky Blues.

At times that came at the sacrifice of their own attacking flair, but this is a different Sydney side to the one that swept all before it for two years previously.

If the rations of clear-cut chances for the home side were meagre, as importantly so were those for the most prolific attack in the competition. Rarely did Perth look even slightly likely to add to their 51 goals so far this campaign, not mustering a shot on target until the last few minutes.

It hardly helped the visitors that wholesale changes followed last Sunday's Plate celebrations, but still the Tony Popovic effect was obvious in the side he put out.

"We saw how far we've come as a football club tonight," Popovic said.

"Sydney are a fantastic team but we got the ultimate respect when they sat off us and played on the counter.

"I'm not sure Perth have ever seen that from Sydney before."

Against such a well-drilled defensive set-up, Sydney needed someone to take a risk, force the issue with a moment of inspiration.

Joel Chianese brings down Paulo Retre.
Joel Chianese brings down Paulo Retre.

For a technically adroit attacking midfielder like Anthony Cacares you could argue there aren't enough such moments, yet he was the inspiration for the opening goal.

It was just one run but an incisive one, into the Perth box and coupled with a sandwedged cross that Paulo Retre headed back across goal Apparently taken by surprise, Le Fondre allowed the ball to hit him literally on the goalline and drop into the net.

The goal not only took Le Fondre clear of Roy Krishna in the Golden Boot race, it was also his third in five games, including the Asian Champions League, suggesting a player slipping back into form after a relatively fallow middle of the season.

At the point of the season when the Asian Champions League games can begin to effect a toll, Sydney seem stronger for their recent arm wrestles with Melbourne Victory and Shanghai SIPG.

Best of all, now they have beaten the premiers.