Unstoppable Sky Blues toy with Reds
ON they roll, the defending champions cruising towards another piece of silverware.
Sydney FC are nine points clear at the top of the A-League once more after efficiently dismissing the challenge of Adelaide United at Jubilee Oval.
At 2-1 the scoreline sounds narrow but it wasn't really. If Sydney went into their collective shell to some degree in the second half, the first 45 minutes had featured some of their most enterprising moments of the season.
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Paulo Retre scored the third and fourth goals of his A-League career, and though Riley McGree stubbed home James Troisi's freekick, United's early season form has dropped off alarmingly.
With almost half the season gone, Sydney by contrast is a team that has forgotten how to lose. Even if they have to play their nearest challengers, Melbourne City, twice, the sky blue new year has begun as relentlessly as the old.
At their best, this Sydney attack is one of the slickest we have seen in the A-League. In the first half particularly they were playing football as snooker, each pass as finely weighted as a champion maneouvering the cue ball for a 147 break.
Their first goal came from a setpiece, it's true, Harry van der Saag having a header saved from Alex Baumjohann's corner before Paulo Retre volleyed home the rebound in the 21st minute.
But that corner came on the back of moving the ball forward with alacrity, and the second goal six minutes later was simply outstanding.
Luke Brattan's initial pass came on the edge of his own box, and the ball pinged via Anthony Cacares, Paulo Retre and on to Baumjohann on the right. The German dummied inside, fed Barbarouses who in turn rolled the ball into the path of Retre for a clinical shot into the bottom corner.
As a team goal, as an exhibition of one-touch passing, it was football to lift fans off their seats in appreciation.
YOUNG, GIFTED AND SKY BLUE
Sydney's team offered a taste of the future, and barely skipped a beat. With Michael Zullo still out, Rhyan Grant suspended and Milos Ninkovic rested, coach Steve Corica had fullbacks from the youth team in Joel King and Harry van der Saag, and the relatively youthful Anthony Cacares in midfield.
Those three alone brought Sydney's average age down by more than two and a half years, and gave a taste of the succession planning underway.
For all that all three of the missing men will be around for at least the next couple of years, the supply line is in place for their replacements.
Van der Saag in particular looked at ease, and well he might. Anything is manageable after marking Kilian Mbappe on your debut just a few months ago.
GOTTA HAND IT TO THEM
At last we found some VAR consistency. On Wednesday night the referee, Alex King, didn't give a penalty for handball by Brisbane defender Tom Aldred against Western Sydney … and when a highly similar incident was also not penalised here in Sydney FC's favour, the VAR who chose not to intervene was Alex King.