Sky Blues smash Wanderers to reach Cup final
SYDNEY FC will play Adelaide United in a second consecutive FFA Cup final after a profitable second half consigned Western Sydney to a 3-0 drubbing.
Trent Buhagiar's close-range finish, Siem de Jong's terrific free-kick and Adam Le Fondre's somewhat controversial late penalty was the difference in Saturday night's semi-final result, one that again showcased the efficient Sky Blues' capacity to get a job done while playing below their best.
In front of 14,435 fans at Panthers Stadium, the reigning Cup champions converted their first three shots on target to see off a Wanderers outfit unable to capitalise on their early dominance and later lost their bite - albeit thwarted repeatedly by Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
Unlike last year, the Reds will hold the home advantage over 2018 conquerors Sydney after being drawn as hosts for the October 30 decider at Coopers Stadium, where victory will give rookie coach Steve Corica a first trophy mere months into his tenure.
"First half was always going to be like that," Corica said.
"It's a derby, they come out firing at home. We withstood the pressure and knew in the second half, when the game gets a little bit stretched, our qualities would come through.
"We punished them, we maybe should have got four."
The Wanderers, having exited at the semi-final stage two tournaments running, must now shift focus to the A-League season under their own new boss Markus Babbel.
And there'll be ample motivation for vengeance in round two's Sydney derby after a night of frustration at what could have been against a team that's commanded this fixture for the best part of five years.
"The result is a disaster for us," Babbel said.
"Because the performance was good, even in the second half, because the first goal was an easy mistake from us which cannot happen at this level, second goal was a top free-kick, you have to accept this, and the penalty for me was not a penalty."
Both sides got the lay of the land early but big derby performer Oriol Riera had the first crack to square for Roly Bonevacia, who was beaten by Rhyan Grant's crucial interception.
The Spanish striker followed it with another dangerous cross and Redmayne stood tall as the Wanderers increased the pressure.
Brendan Hamill drew another smart save and the captain was already celebrating his would-be goal before realising the often-maligned custodian had crouched just low enough at the near post.
Alex Baumjohann, the Germany playmaker who's made such an impression since his round-of-16 debut, was clearly a target and found himself on the end of some not-so-affectionate attention.
Still, his on-point free-kick nearly gave Riera some joy, soon after a flare was let off and promptly dealt with in the Red and Black Bloc active support area.
Up the other end, Sydney pinged the ball around and in the path of a deeper-lying Milos Ninkovic and Michael Zullo blazed forward with energy.
But the signs indicated Corica's new-look attack still has some gelling to do, albeit early in the piece.
Despite Western Sydney's superior opening their chances weren't exactly a sure thing - though Redmayne did fumble Jaushua Sotirio's accutely angled drive on the tick of halftime.
All the hard work amounted to nil once Sydney mustered something out of nothing minutes after the break.
It occurred in a flash as Dutch marquee de Jong played in Buhagiar, whose lightning pace offset a middling first touch to skirt around a defender and beat back-up custodian Danijel Nizic.
The Wanderers moved quickly on the counter and the omnipresent Riera found Josh Risdon who, one on one with Redmayne, pulled the trigger and forced a fine reflex parry.
But the second decisive moment was soon upon them, and there was nothing Nizic could do to stop de Jong's curling set piece that lifted over the wall and nestled in the top corner.
At that point - and as an ensuing melee suggested - the match was arguably won, but Le Fondre ensured the scoreline further swelled.
The English striker went down in the box after apparent contact from Tarek Elrich and fired hard and high from the spot.
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