The Sky Blues proved they have the recipe to upset Melbourne Victory in the decider after a crushing win over the Reds at Allianz Stadium.
Here’s five things we learned as Muscat and Arnie prepare their sides for next Sunday’s epic Hyundai A-League Grand Final showdown.
Naumoff embraces the big occasion
With 14 starts and eight substitute appearances, 19-year-old Chris Naumoff had been a regular contributor but hardly a key figure in the Sky Blues’ season, until now.
Entrusted with a place in the first XI on Saturday night, he rewarded Graham Arnold in style as one of Sydney’s best players in the opening exchanges.
The teenager made the Reds sit up and take notice when glided past three defenders, cut inside and fired a shot just wide of Eugene Galekovic’s goal early on.
It wasn’t long before he got in behind Osama Malik down the left flank and cut the ball back to the centre of the penalty area, where Bernie Ibini arrived to smash home the opener – a fantastic start to a high-pressure contest from two of Sydney’s young guns.
Fittingly, it was Naumoff who killed off Adelaide’s late rally with the fourth goal in the 91st minute.
Brosque delivers a hammer blow sheathed in a velvet glove
It’s a saying as old as the paraphernalia surrounding modern professional football – there’s no better moment to score a goal than right before half-time.
We’ll leave it to the likes of Opta to dig up statistical proof, but there’s no denying the timing of Sydney FC’s second goal was brutal as far as the Reds were concerned.
A minute into first-half stoppage time Ibini turned provider, supplying a delivery from the right flank to the near post, where Brosque executed an outrageous piece of skill to double the hosts’ advantage.
The Sydney FC captain and domestic marquee player’s back-heeled, flicked finish flummoxed Eugene Galekovic at the Adelaide goalkeeper’s near post.
In the space of 45 minutes the Sky Blues had scored as many goals, two, against Adelaide as they had managed in the previous 570 against the same opponents. That’s six matches, including one – in the FFA Cup – that went to extra-time. Talk about delivering when it really counts.
Adelaide’s hopes over in the blink of an eye
In a nine-minute period mid-way through the first half, we thought we were watching Adelaide’s first period of sustained pressure, an indication perhaps of things to come from the usually free-flowing, attacking visitors.
Instead a succession of three missed chances proved to be the moments when the Reds’ A-League title hopes came to an end. In the 25th minute Jimmy Jeggo’s first-touch through-ball released Sergio Cirio between the Sydney centre-backs and in on goal. One on one with Vedran Janjetovic, he allowed the Sky Blues’ keeper to rush out and smother the chance.
Six minutes later Pablo Sanchez hit the bar with a free-kick and shortly after that Jeggo tried to direct a free-kick toward goal, miscuing his header and watching as the ball, which came off his shoulder, whistled narrowly wide of Janjetovic’s far post.
Little did they know, Adelaide’s failure to take one of those openings would sound the death knell for their championship aspirations.
Reds exit with honour intact after late rally
Mid-way through the second half it looked as if Adelaide’s campaign was about to fizzle out with a whimper. That wouldn’t have done justice to the entertainment they’ve provided us this season, so it was gratifying to watch Josep Gombau’s side have a real tilt at staging a comeback.
Losing Osama Malik at half-time was a blow for the visitors, but their coach responded positively by introducing flying winger Awer Mabil.
Craig Goodwin’s second-half goal, and the rally that followed it, came too late for the away team to get back into it, but they certainly had Sydney worried in the final 15 minutes, calling Janjetovic into action and narrowly failing to hit the target on several occasions before Naumoff went up the other end and put it beyond doubt.
Tough, clinical Sydney know the recipe to upset Victory
Melbourne Victory’s players and supporters have every reason to fear the Sky Blues, despite the fact they will enjoy home advantage at AAMI Park next Sunday.
Sydney ‘Mark II’, as Graham Arnold has dubbed his reinforced, post-Asian Cup squad, defend ruggedly, aren’t afraid to get stuck in and take their chances with aplomb. Alex Brosque and Bernie Ibini are in deadly form, Marc Janko is the regular season Golden Boot winner and Shane Smeltz is a veteran reserve worthy of Victory’s own creaking supersub Archie Thompson.
Jacques Faty and Mickael Tavares must be two of the best mid-season acquisitions in A-League history and their talent, solidity and calm heads could – in combination with the Sky Blues’ other prized assets – prove enough to rain on the Victory parade in Melbourne on Grand Final day.