Preview: Semi-Final football begins for Sydney FC 

Sydney FC have reached the semi-finals for the seventh time in eight seasons, and they will face Premiers Central Coast Mariners in the first leg this Friday night at Allianz Stadium (7:45pm). 

The Isuzu UTE A-League Semi Finals run where Sydney FC and the Mariners will play each other over two matches, one at Allianz Stadium and the second at Industree Group Stadium Saturday week. Whoever has the higher aggregate (the team with the most combined goals over the two legs) will progress to the final. 

The Sky Blues earned their spot in the semi-finals after defeating Macarthur FC 4-0 on Saturday night, whilst the Mariners took out the top spot after beating Adelaide United 2-0 to secure the Premiers’ Plate. 

After their AFC Cup win on Monday morning, the Mariners are now hunting for a treble, whilst Sydney FC is hunting for a double, which has alluded them since the 2017/2018 season, when they last won the Australia Cup and the Championship. 

Ufuk Talay wanted more from his side last Saturday as Sydney FC strode into the semi-finals after dominating the Bulls. 

The Sky Blues gave Macarthur few opportunities to work themselves in the game, executing their high-risk, high-reward style of play. 

A double to Robert Mak and goals to Jaiden Kucharski and Joe Lolley reflected their dominance on the pitch as they made a statement win. 

With the Sky Blues now recording 13 goals in their past three performances at Allianz Stadium, they will need to extend that if they are to gain an aggregate advantage going into the second leg in Gosford next Saturday. 

Rhyan Grant explained earlier this week that he feels Sydney FC “can go all the way,” which Ufuk Talay reinforced as he expects his team to play to even more “perfection” if they are to reach a historic eighth Grand Final. 

Central Coast should, however, not be underrated as the side has only lost twice since November 2023, these both against Sydney FC. 

Central Coast Mariners lifting the Premiership

The side surged to the Premiership last Wednesday and earned their first continental trophy on Monday morning, defeating Lebanese side Al Ahed 1-0 to secure the AFC Cup.  

Both teams were finely matched in the final, creating opportunities that penetrated each other’s defensive lines. 

After a nervy start, Central Coast wrestled themselves into the game, controlling up to 65% of possession and 200 more passes than their Lebanese opposition.  

Eventually, Alou Kuol broke the stalemate in the 84th minute when he squeezed the ball in between the goalkeeper’s legs to seal the trophy. 

Riding high from the win, they embarked on a fifteen-hour flight back to Gosford, and they arrived on Tuesday night in time for Friday night’s clash in Sydney. 

Players to Watch: Mikael Doka and Robert Mak

Robert Mak has had a stellar past few weeks with Sky Blues, extending himself as the third-highest goal contributor for the squad as the forward vies for his spot in the Slovakian National Team for the Euros. 

Mak has scored four goals and assisted two in his past two appearances against Perth Glory and Macarthur FC. 

But especially in attack, the Slovak has reinforced Ufuk Talay’s demanding style of play, moving into spaces for attacking runs and providing key passes past defensive lines, such as his through ball to Jaiden Kucharski’s goal last week. 

He has been in the right place at the right time for all of his last four goals, scoring one at the back post last week. 

But most significantly, the striker has shown his class and versatility in the box, scoring against Perth by dribbling past the goalkeeper and slotting the ball from a tight angle, and then last week dancing around a few defenders before planting it in the left side of the goal. 

Robert Mak after beating the goalkeeper and dispatching the ball from a tight angle

Mikael Doka 

Mikael Doka dominates the right flank when playing, which causes headaches for opposition teams. 

The versatile midfielder similarly moves around the pitch to Joe Lolley, finding himself on top of the ball multiple times and creating big chances, especially with set pieces. 

The Brazilian has taken Central Coast by storm in his debut season, where he was named the A-League’s Player of the Month for April as well as picking the Mariners Newcomer Award, and the MVP of the AFC Cup tournament, where he scored four and assisted two in the knockout stages. 

He also tends to score late goals against top sides such as second-placed Wellington Phoenix, Odisha FC and Macarthur. 

But he also is a key defender for the side, recovering 3.5 balls per game, making 1.5 tackles and recording 1.2 clearances. He often starts at the right back position, becoming more of a right winger as the game progresses. 

Sydney FC kept him quiet during the last outing, as although he made 81 touches, he was relegated to the Mariners’ half of the field, giving him no space to unleash his attacking flair. 

Mikael Doka celebrating his goal against Wellington Phoenix

2023/2024 Compare the Pair:

7-0-3H2H LAST 10 GAMES3-0-7
9-5-8H2H IN SYD8-5-19
19.1SHOTS PG13.8
12.6FOULS PG9.9

Team News:

For Sydney FC, they will be without Joe Lolley after he sustained a hamstring injury after striking the ball awkwardly against Macarthur FC. The Sky Blues will also be hoping that captain Luke Brattan can overcome an ankle niggle, which Ufuk Talay is confident he can come back from.

For Central Coast, they recorded no injuries against Al-Ahed. However, Noah Smith and Sasha Kuzevski will be out after sustaining season-ending injuries earlier this campaign. 

Last Time Out: 

Sydney FC hosted the Mariners at Allianz Stadium in March, and this match prompted Talay to say, “This has been our best performance since I’ve been here”.

Anthony Caceres after scoring against the Mariners

This praise came as the Sky Blues executed their high press to perfection, keeping the Mariners in their half to seal a 2-0 victory. 

The Sky Blues controlled the contest from the outset but could not find the magic touch despite opportunities to Jaiden Kucharski and Joe Lolley. 

But, in the second half, they capitalised on running riot in ten minutes when Anthony Caceres danced around the Mariners defence before burying it in the bottom corner. 

And minutes later, Joel King volleyed the ball past Danny Vukovic, seeing the Sky Blues run out victors, and the Mariners suffer their first loss in over a month. 

Match Details: Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners Isuzu UTE A-League Semi-Final Leg One Friday 10th May, 2024 Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW
Kick Off: 7:45PM Gates Open: 6:45PM Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10PLAY Tickets: Click Here