Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was proud of his team’s effort to overcome going down to nine men to beat Hyundai A-League leaders Perth Glory 3-1 on Saturday night, but knows they have to lift further to beat Melbourne Victory.
The Sky Blues went up 2-0 over the Glory at nib Stadium on Saturday thanks to penalties by Marc Janko and Milos Dimitrijevic, but then had to respond to falling down to nine men with Nikola Petkovic joining Jacques Faty as early departures.
Perth had got one goal back and were looking to press with the numerical advantage, but a piece of brilliance from Bernie Ibini saw him score Sydney’s third goal of the night to seal the win and further consolidate the Sky Blues in fifth position.
However, centre backs Faty and Petkovic will now miss next Saturday night’s clash with the second-placed Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium and that spells danger signs for Arnold when thinking of the threat Besart Berisha presents, but he is confident he has the cover to do the job in his squad.
“We are two centre backs down against Berisha but we showed here in the second half that we’ve definitely got the strength in cover with (Aaron) Calver and Matty Jurman. Seb Ryall will be fit for next week as well so he’ll be back,” Arnold said.
“You’ve got to talk about Melbourne Victory. You look at what Victory are doing and Kevin Muscat is doing a great job, and they’re the team to beat for me. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and I’m exceptionally proud of the young kids we’ve got.
“Young (Alex) Gersbach was dynamite tonight and he’s only just turned 17, Aaron Calver is 18 years of age, Chris Naumoff is 18 years of age and then Terry Antonis is a Socceroo but he’s only 20 or 21. I get more joy out of developing young Australian players than winning football games.”
Arnold was delighted to see Ibini rewarded for his persistence throughout the night as well to end up scoring the match-winner.
Ibini outwitted Glory captain Michael Thwaite leaving him with clear space between him and ‘keeper Danny Vukovic, and he ended up scoring in style much to the joy of his coach.
“Bernie is a fantastic kid and a fantastic player. He really gives us a lot of energy going forward,” Arnold said.
“If you look at the first half there when Jacques (Faty) got sent off, Bernie played right full back for the 15 minutes before half-time and that enabled us to bring Rhyan Grant on and move Calver who is normally a central defender inside.
“Bernie’s energy in both attack and defence is great. There’s not many players in the A-League that light up a stadium like he does when he goes into open space. It wsa a great reward for his performance with that goal.”