With Sydney FC’s raiding of rival clubs in the Hyundai A-League off-season, the signing of Ryan McGowan went somewhat under the radar.
It was the acquisitions of Kosta Barbarouses (Melbourne Victory), Alexander Baumjohann (Western Sydney Wanderers) and Luke Brattan (Melbourne City) that caused the biggest stir heading in the 2019/20 campaign.
But the Caltex Socceroos defender needed just one moment to show why he’ll be just as an important addition to the Sky Blues squad if they want to go back-to-back.
The Sky Blues looked like they would have to settle for a 2-2 draw against a 10-man Adelaide United until McGowan had the last say three minutes from the end.
The 30-year-old, who was born in Adelaide, marked his first Hyundai A-League game with a towering header to hand Sydney FC a 3-2 win at Coopers Stadium.
It was a special moment for the defender, who had a host of his family in the stands including his wife and mum.
“An Adelaide boy coming back, I’m delighted to play and score in front of family and friends,” McGowan said on Sydney FC’s Facebook channel post-match.
“But most importantly it helped get the win. I’m just delighted to get off the mark and get the three points for the boys.”
McGowan was inexplicably left unmarked at a corner, timing his run to perfection to meet Brandon O’Neill’s corner with a thunderous header that gave Reds keeper Paul Izzo no chance.
Asked if his side had worked on that set piece, Sydney coach Steve Corica said: “Yeah, of course.
“We worked extremely hard on set pieces in pre-season.
“He [McGowan] has a good jump, it was well-timed. Good header.”
It was a fantastic way for Sydney FC to start their title defence, and they chalked up some club and individual milestones along the way.
The win means the Sky Blues have now stretched their unbeaten run against Adelaide United to 10 games, while their second goal of the night makes them the second club to reach 600 Hyundai A-League goals (Melbourne Victory 632).
Adam Le Fondre’s first-half brace saw him become just the fifth player to score at least two goals in a match for the club, while he is now the third-quickest player to 20 goals in Hyundai A-League history.
All of those stats aside, Corica was ecstatic with how his side performed on the first match of the campaign, especially his new recruits.
“We wanted to bring in quality players and good guys as well which they are,” the Sky Blues boss said.
“All of them have A-League experience except for Ryan McGowan, who popped up with the third goal.
“I was very pleased with all of them. It’s the first game of the season, there’s still improvement to go but there’s some very good signs with our attack.”