Late save, class and character revive Sydney FC’s title ambitions
It wasn't simply their class that made this result so sweet for Sydney FC but also the character they showed to clinch the crucial win over Brisbane Roar. Beginning with a spectacular brace by English striker Adam Le Fondre and finishing by a vital penalty save from goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne late in the match, the Sky Blues' sealed a 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar in Kogarah on Saturday night that put their title aspirations back on track.
After a turbulent start to the season, Sydney FC are now temporarily just behind Melbourne Victory on goal difference at the top of the A-League table after clinching their third successive victory in dramatic fashion.
Le Fondre continued his incredible start to the A-League season by bringing his tally to nine goals in 10 games against a Roar side invigorated despite John Aloisi resigning as their coach the day before the game. Initially, it appeared Sydney were on the course for an easy win as it took just 16 minutes for them to make light work of a Roar side under the interim leadership of Darren Davies.
Michael Zullo's perfectly weighted cross from deep found the run of Le Fondre, and it landed plum on the Englishman's forehead. With an instinctive header, Le Fondre delicately guided the ball past a hapless Jamie Young to break the deadlock.
The Roar came close to finding an instant reply when Frenchman Eric Bautheac began to pull the strings in midfield. His well-weighted cross gave Dane Ingham a chance to draw level with a header, only for Redmayne to deny him with a fingertip save.
Sydney's goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Brisbane eventually finding a breakthrough 10 minutes before the break. Bautheac was the architect with a clever cross to the far post to find Ingham, whose cut back was turned into the net by the chest of Matt McKay.
Visibly frustrated on the sideline, Sydney FC coach Steve Corica evidently delivered a stern sermon to his players during the break. The Sky Blues were immediately more purposeful and assertive from the restart. It wasn't long before a passing clinic eroded Roar's defence. Beginning with their backline, Sydney played their through into their attacking third with patience and poise before Siem de Jong and Milos Ninkovic added class to their attack.
The duo combined to find space before providing Brandon O'Neill room to cross from the left flank. Latching on to that ball was, of course, Le Fondre, who finished the move with an elegant first-time shot guided onto the post and into the back of the net. Like much of the 12,216 supporters, goalkeeper Young could only watch in awe as Sydney regained the lead with what was one of the great team goals of the season.
While the Roar remained dangerous on the break, the Sky Blues suffocated Brisbane with their press while looking to strike through their combination play. They should have had a third when substitute Danny De Silva played Alex Brosque into goal but a firm save by Young kept the visitors narrowly in the contest.
Minutes later, they were firmly back in it. They were gifted a chance to draw level when Adam Taggart was judged to have been fouled in the box by Sydney's Aaron Calver; replays and the VAR suggested minimal contact. The Sky Blues were seething as they watched replays, screaming injustice and captain Brosque was cautioned for his protests.
Taggart stepped up to the spot to seal their equaliser, only for Redmayne to claim Sydney's own sense of justice. The goalkeeper read Taggart's penalty perfectly to parry the shot wide and clinch Sydney's win.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.