Sydney faces season-defining A-Leagues stretch

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica has acknowledged that his side’s looming A-League Men fixtures against Central Coast Mariners and Adelaide United have the potential to make or break the Sky Blues’ season.

Second best from the opening whistle, Sydney slumped to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Wednesday night, denying them any hope of turning their 3-2 Sydney Derby win into a run of momentum that provide them with more secure footing in the league’s finals’ places.

See Also: Melbourne City throw down ALM gauntlet with 4-0 thrashing of Sydney FC

The heavy defeating moving their goal difference to -2 and sliding them below now fifth-placed Adelaide, Corica’s side now sits precariously poised in the sixth position on the ALM table heading into a weekend in which they will travel to Gosford to play eighth-placed Central Coast Mariners on Saturday evening.

The Mariners, as do the seventh-placed Wellington Phoenix, sit just two points back of the Harboursiders on the ALM table but possess three games in hand. Looking even further back, the ninth-placed Newcastle Jets sit just six points back of Sydney with three games in hand.

With a Big Blue clash and a meeting with Brisbane Roar all that await them when they return from six games in 18 days at the Asian Champions League, Sydney’s coming fixtures against the Mariners and Adelaide the following Tuesday now suddenly loom as season-defining.

Fail to take maximum points, and it might not matter what they’re able to glean from their last two regular-season games.

“They are two obviously very important games,” Corica said following his side’s loss to City.

“Both teams are in and around so you know Central Coast have got games in hand but Adelaide obviously they’re close as well so we obviously need to win both games.

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“You have to try and pick up maximum points against teams that are in and around you, especially when we played the extra games.

“It’s a very important game against Central Coast and we can’t afford to have a poor performance like this.

“We’ve gone from a fantastic performance against the Wanderers three days ago and then put on this performance. It’s definitely not what we come here for so we need to turn it around again and get ready for the Central Coast.”

Indeed, the Sydney coach pulled few punches in analysing where things went wrong in the loss, particularly in a second half that saw a Mat Leckie brace and Jamie Maclaren strike seal City’s win following Jordy Bos’ first-half opener.

In fact, Corica would initially simply say “everything” went wrong, only to then elaborate further.

“I think at half-time it was only 1-0, we were only 1-0 down and we thought could have got back in the game,” he said.

“But even from the start of the first half, we didn’t compete. That’s as simple as it is. We didn’t win any second balls, they outplayed us, we didn’t want to play, we were quite negative and they pressed us well.

“And then when we started to step out in the second half we got caught a couple of times and individual mistakes cost us. Overall, it was a poor performance from us, to be fair.”

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Conversely, things are going just swimmingly for City and their coach Patrick Kisnorbo.

Now eight points clear of Western Untied atop the ALM table – albeit their Victorian rivals also possess three games in hand – City is now undefeated in their last eleven fixtures and, with a 17-point gap on third-place on the table, will return from their upcoming Asian Champions League debut safely ensconced in the top-two regardless of results elsewhere.

The defending premiers and champions have won their past two games by a combined score of 10-0 and while both they and Melbourne Victory will nominally have the same amount of rest heading into Saturday’s derby, their foes will have to fly back from Perth for the game.

“I thought we prepared well for the game,” Kisnorbo said on Wednesday’s win. “The boys did fantastically well coming off a short turnaround.

“We’ve got to improve some bits. It’s not a perfect game. We need to work on that but, overall, I thought we played overnight.

“Again, a bit like last game [a 6-0 win against Wellington that featured five second-half goals], we just wanted to correct a few things. And we did that in the second half and we made some good opportunities. I was pleased with that.”

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Header Image Credit: Sydney FC

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