Ruthless Sydney FC are the complete package

ANALYSIS: Unbeaten leaders Sydney FC revealed a clinical and multi-functional side to their eye-catching championship credentials in beating Brisbane Roar 2-0 to open up a 10-point gap at the top of the A-League.

Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar, A-League

Milos Ninkovic celebrates with his teammates Source: Getty Images

Graham Arnold's Sky Blues have made many headlines this season for their attacking capacity that has now netted them a staggering 31 goals from 13 matches.

Strikers win matches but defenders win championships, they say.

And Sydney to be sure gave a classic demonstration of rock-solid defensive play and organisation to keep out a rampant Roar side, particularly in the last half hour of the match when the home side were reduced to 10 men after the sending-off of captain Alex Brosque.

Sydney had to dig deep in the final third of the game and succeeded in keeping a clean sheet thanks largely to the steady central defensive partnership of Alex Wilkinson and Matt Jurman, the energy and drive of fullbacks Rhyan Grant and Michael Zullo and the commanding form of Danny Vukovic.

These five players - with the impressive Brandon O'Neill offering protection in his defensive midfielder's role - formed a human wall that Brisbane could not breach.

Brisbane had a handful of scoring chances and were desperately unlucky not to find the net with the score at 1-0 when a dipping shot from substitute Manuel Arana hit the underside of the bar with Vukovic beaten.

"It was a fantastic effort tonight," Arnold said later.

"When you have to roll up your sleeves and fight to win games is also a quality. At the end of the day it might not have been a football purist's result when we went down to 10 men, but I coach my teams how to defend in case we have a player sent off.

"We had to play with 10 men in the last 15 minutes against Melbourne City and did not concede and the same happened tonight."

Sydney have never had a stronger and more resolute defence, thanks largely to the way the team defends from the front as soon as the ball is lost.

They have conceded only five goals in 13 matches.

Brisbane coach John Aloisi acknowledged as much after the game.

"They're a top side with quality players and they defend well," he said.

"What Graham has done really well is get them to be organised from front to back and they are a hard team to play through."

Sydney may have had to fall back on their defensive prowess to secure yet another impressive victory against a top footballing side but attacker Bobo chose this outing to play his finest match of the campaign.

The Brazilian star has been criticised by some for his generally underwhelming form in his first stint in Australia but Arnold always saw qualities in him that were not too apparent or obvious to onlookers.

Bobo was immense and was at the centre of Sydney's best moments on Friday. He made the goals for Brosque and Milos Ninkovic with perfect passes into space and stole the show with some moments of high individual class to which Brisbane had no answer.
He received a tremendous ovation from the 16,500 crowd when he was replaced late in the second half.

"Bobo tonight was unbelievable," Arnold said.

"You saw the complete package tonight. All that was missing was a goal which would have topped it all off for him. His movement was great and he made two fantastic assists. He can hold the ball up and bring players into play."

Sydney's blistering form that makes them hot favourites to win the Premiers' Plate is making those years of listless football since they won the double in 2010 seem a hundred years away.

Sydney sometimes won games and on other times provided some decent stuff.

But this year they are winning and doing it in style, consistently.

Sydney are the real deal - there is no doubt anymore about that - and the frightening part about it is that, if Arnold is to be believed, we have yet to see the best of this side.

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4 min read
Published 31 December 2016 at 9:26am
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS