‘You grew an extra leg when you played the best’ – Western United wary of Sydney FC’s attacking potential

If the old footballing cliche that states a striker getting one goal augurs more to come is accurate, Western United might be in trouble heading into Wednesday evening’s fixture with Sydney FC. 

Deyvison Rogério da Silva – known to his friends as Bobô – found the back of the net for the first time since returning for his second stint in the Harbour City in Sydney’s 1-1 draw with Brisbane Roar last Saturday; heading home in the 71st minute to secure a point for his side after Dylan Wenzel-Halls had put the hosts ahead in the first half. 

It marked the 36-year-olds first goal in four appearances since re-signing with Sydney for this season, but his 43rd goal in 61 A-League appearances overall. 

Bobô’s ability to shrug off Father Time and begin to tap into the goalscoring touch that saw him net 27 times in 27 games in 2017-18 looms large for coach Steve Corica’s side heading into the remainder of the season; his team thus far struggling to demonstrate the lethality in front of goal that has come to define their dominating run of success of previous campaigns. 

Sydney sits in ninth position on the A-Leauge table heading into Wednesday evening’s clash with Western, with only the woefully blunt Newcastle Jets and self-destructing Melbourne Victory scoring fewer goals per 90 minutes. Key attacker Kosta Barbarouses has only scored three times this campaign, none of which came in Sydney’s ongoing run of four straight games without a win.

“Obviously he is not happy with where he is at the moment with the goal scoring,” Corica said of Barbarouses on Tuesday.

“He is getting a lot of opportunities … he’s getting good possessions, it’s all about just finishing them off.

“[But] it’s not just him, there’s other players having opportunities as well which they need to take.

With the Harboursiders still creating goalscoring opportunities despite their miserly finishing, Western coach Mark Rudan remains wary ahead of the two side’s clash. 

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“It’s a very tight compact league, we respect them as the champions of the competition,” he said. “They’re still playing good football, still creating good chances. 

“It’s going to be a tough game, there’s no doubt about that. Everyone can see that they are creating a lot of chances, they’re just not finishing them off and we’ve got to make sure that we do our job defensively and ensure that they don’t get in behind us and create those chances they have been. 

“[Bobô’s not] a headache, it’s one that you just need to be wary of and make sure that our players are aware of what his skill set is and, like any other strikers that play for Sydney FC, they all bring a different dimension and skill set.

“When I played, you always wanted to test yourself against the best and you always grew an extra leg when you played against the best. Your focus intensified, your concentration went up a level as well. I’d expect the same from my players, that’s for sure. 

“But ultimately it’s not about one player, we are playing the champions so as far as I’m concerned we’ve got to be up for this game and we will be and the players are really eager to play in this game.”

Western will be looking to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Western Sydney Wanderers when they make the trip to Sydney, that loss snapping a two-game winning streak in which Rudan’s side had scored four goals in successive games. 

Their quest for redemption, however, will be made without the services of injured goalkeeper Filip Kurto, who won’t travel to Sydney after suffering a concusssion during a first-half, goalmouth scramble in the defeat.

Back-up Ryan Scott, who signed a two-year contract extension prior to the season, will likely start in his place, with youth team goalkeeper Charlie Emery to serve as his number two.

Scott, the established Kurto in front of him, has largely served as a ‘glue guy’ since he signed with Western mid-way through the 2019-20; rarely receiving attention from those outside of the club but serving as a popular, hardworking and morale-boosting teammate within it. 

Wednesday’s contest will mark his first ever A-League start and just third appearance in total; previously entering as a substitute for Kurto in the Wanderers’ loss and Western’s 5-1 win over Adelaide United just before the competition’s COVID-19 enforced suspension in 2019-20.

But while his fleeting minutes at A-League level means he’s an obscure figure on the national stage, Scott is well known to observers of Victorian football as a key cog in the late 2010s dominance of NPL Victoria by Bentleigh Greens.

The 25-year-old won the Jimmy Rooney Medal as best afield in the NPL Victoria Grand Final in both 2017 and 2019, and was the consistent first choice of then-Greens coach and now-Western assistant John Anastasiadis as the club became a local powerhouses and a frequent party-crasher of the FFA Cup’s later rounds.

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