Sydney FC are on a run of good form, having secured seven out of their last nine available points, those three matches coming in the space of six days.
The Sky Blues were set to complete a perfect record with three wins from three, but a late Jamie Maclaren penalty in the eighth minute of stoppage time ensured that Melbourne City took a point, and importantly for them, took two off Sydney.
Judging by the late penalty, it’s easy to think that Sydney was unlucky to not take three points away, but in reality, they probably should have lost. Sydney created more chances, with an expected goals of 1.42, while Melbourne City finishing with an xG of 2.58 including the penalty.
Sydney was the dominant side in the first half, creating the majority of the chances and hitting the post once through a left-footed strike from Rhyan Grant.
The Sky Blues opened their scoring in the second half through Kiwi striker Kosta Barbarouses, where Sydney had multiple efforts saved on the line, before the referee gave a goal for Barbarouses’ first shot.
After the goal, Sydney became a reactive, defensive side and struggled to retain possession. Melbourne City created a plethora of chances, with Andrew Redmayne working magic to keep a clean sheet, until the penalty was expertly dispatched by the league’s top goal scorer, Jamie Maclaren.
The top six right now is currently separated by just five points. Sydney sits in fourth, on the same points as Macarthur who have played one more game, and three points behind their opponents, Adelaide United.
Sydney played Adelaide on March 28 and lost 1-0 thanks to a penalty from Craig Goodwin.
Adelaide pressed exceptionally high in that game, keeping a high line to try and congest the field. This worked well for the Reds, with Milos Ninkovic and Anthony Caceres unable to find time to carry the ball forwards or pick out teammates with key passes.
Sydney’s most dangerous player going forward was Kosta Barbarouses, who provided a constant threat with his smart timing of runs and pace in behind.
Barbarouses didn’t score but created multiple chances for his side. Late inside the first half, he squared the ball to Bobo inside the box, only for the Brazilian striker to be denied by a block from fullback Ryan Strain.
In the 89th minute, Barbarouses made a run in behind and played an inch perfect ball to Patrick Wood. Wood’s free header from in front of the penalty spot was too close to goalkeeper Joe Gauci, who showed sublime reflexes to tip the ball over.
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Barbarouses carried his good form into his next three games, scoring a goal in each. He’s set to play his 250th A-League game against Adelaide.
“I think once we win back possession, we need to take care of those first two or three passes,” Barbarouses said of Adelaide’s high defensive line.
“I think the game will still be open and once we have possession and control we can go forward.
“We don’t want to spend the game back and forth, with a turnover sort of game, so I think once we win back possession, we just need to take care for a pass or two and then somebody will be able to get their head up and exploit that space.
“It’s just a mix of being patient but that doesn’t mean being slow. Being patient means finding the right time to make that pass forward.”
Sydney will once again play at Leichhardt Oval, as they did against Melbourne City last Saturday night, where the support was immense.
“I think it made a big difference,” Barbarouses said.
“Especially in the last year, having a great atmosphere and having a stadium at capacity was great. I think it definitely does give us a bit of a boost and gives us that sense of things going back to normal, in a way.
“I think Leichhardt’s great, obviously it’s a little more compact so it feels a little bit louder or that there’s more people there, but I think the support’s been pretty good all the way through what’s been a tough year.”
Adelaide are currently three points ahead of Sydney, and a win would be vital for both sides. Adelaide would go six points clear of Sydney, whereas a win for the Sky Blues would see them go level on points.
“There’s still ten games to go,” Barbarouses said.
“But the fact is we need to win against teams that are ahead of us on the table.
“That’s the way we’re going to climb up the ladder, and I think people are going to drop points here and there along the way.
“If we just control what we can and beat teams that are ahead of us, I think we’re a really good chance to keep climbing the ladder.
“We’ve been on a really good run lately and not just results, but the performances have been good which is the most pleasing.
“I think if we play how we have been the past couple of weeks then we’ll be a good chance.”
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