Preview: Sydney FC’s Last Attempt At Semi Final Victory

Sydney FC will venture to Gosford this weekend in an attempt to secure their eighth Grand Final appearance. Ufuk Talay’s squad will need to win the second leg of the Semi Final by two goals based on the aggregate if they wish to avoid a penalty shoot out.

The Sky Blues have featured in seven previous Grand Finals, winning the Championship title five times in 2006, 2010, 2017, 2019 and 2020.

The squad had a successful season, finishing in fourth and only just trailing behind third placed Melbourne Victory by one point. Despite an unsteady start to the season, the Sky Blue Men were able to shift their focus and set their sights on another finals campaign.

The challenge this weekend will not be for the faint hearted. The Central Coast Mariners will be aiming to go for the treble after being crowned the 2023/2024 Premiers and AFC Cup winners. The Mariners also have a back-to-back Championship on the line after securing their second title last season. However, whilst the Mariners have only lost twice since November 2023, both of those occasions were against the Sky Blues.

The Harbour City Club will feature a wealth of finals football experts including the likes of Luke Brattan who has represented in 17 A-League Finals and 4 Grand Finals. Similarly, the Sky Blues will also feature Andrew Redmayne and Anthony Caceres who have also had their fair share of finals contests. Talay’s starting lineup will promote young blood new to the A-League Finals.

Hayden Matthews attempts a shot on goal during the A-League Men Semi Final match between Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners.

Ones To Watch: Hayden Matthews and Alou Kuol

Sydney FC and the Mariners will each have young stars take to the pitch Saturday evening. The squads have two of the A-Leagues youngest sides with the Sky Blues average squad age being 23.94 whilst the Mariners sit at a mean of 23.52. Hayden Matthews and Alou Kuol have each been consistent starters for their respected sides this season and both appeared in the first leg of the Semi Final last weekend.

Matthews is enjoying a positive start to his A-League career after making his professional debut in January against the Newcastle Jets. The soon to be 20 year-old is no stranger to a tough contest. The former Sydney FC Academy player and U20’s captain has worn a Sky Blue jersey since the age of 12 and his most recent accolade being the 2022 National Premier League U20’s Championship. In the last 16 matches, the centre-back has notched 51 clearances, nine blocks and 11 intercepts. Sitting comfortably at a 67.7% success rate for tackles, the rookie has been influential for his side. Whilst Matthews is yet to score his maiden A-League goal, his three attempts have been close calls.

Joel King and Gabriel Lacerda approaching Alou Kuol.

Kuol will be a tough opponent for the centre-back pairing consisting of Matthews and potentially Jake Girdwood-Reich. Making his debut in 2020, Kuol has scored five goals out of his 17 shots on target. Four of these goals have been scored with his preferred foot on the right, and have each been achieved inside the box. The 22 year-old has a 50% success rate in finals, winning one game out of the two he has played in the last two years.

2023/2024 Compare the Pair:

7-0-4H2H LAST 10 GAMES4-0-7
13-6-10H2H IN CC10-6-13
18.6SHOTS PG13.6
3.1SAVES PG2.9
12.8FOULS PG9.9

Team News:

Joe Lolley will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a hamstring injury. Gus Hoefsloot (knee) will also remain on the sideline due to injury but Nathan Amanatidis is likely to return from a quad injury. Jake Girdwood-Reich is progressing through the week after coming off the field with a cork in Friday night’s game. Sydney FC will also forgo Jack Rodwell and Corey Hollman following last weekends red card frenzy. Hollman is on a one match suspension but could be in contention to appear in the Grand Final if the Sky Blues win this weekend. Rodwell will miss both.

The Central Coast Mariners had no injuries last weekend and their lineup should remain the same.

Last Time Out:

On Friday evening, Sydney FC hosted the Mariners at Allianz Stadium. A strong opening from Joel King looked promising for the hosts, securing the first goal for the match within the first 30 minutes of play. However, a series of unfortunate events including a disallowed goal, disputed penalty and two red cards saw the Sky Blues nine-man squad go down fighting, conceding a 2-1 loss. The goal scorers for the Mariners included Josh Nisbet on the stroke of halftime and Mikael Doka stepping up for the penalty.

Match Details:

Sydney FC v Central Coast Mariners

Isuzu UTE A-League Semi-Final Leg Two Saturday 18th May, 2024

Industree Group Stadium, Gosford – Kick Off: 7:45PM,

Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10PLAY, Tickets: Click Here