Socceroo Terry Antonis scored a dramatic winner 15 minutes from the end to save 10-man Sydney FC’s blushes after they surrendered a 3-0 lead before winning 4-3 in an astonishing derby against Western Sydney Wanderers.
In one of the matches of the season, the Sky Blues looked on course for a huge win over their bitter neighbours as an Ante Covic own goal and a brace from Marc Janko had them three goals up inside 25 minutes.
But spurred on by almost 20,000 fans at Pirtek Stadium, the Wanderers produced a stunning fightback with Iacopo La Rocca and debutant Kerem Bulut getting them back in the contest before the break.
Bulut became an instant fan favourite when he equalised nine minutes after the break but Antonis had the final say, coming off the bench to pinch a winner and move Sydney FC into the top four.
Mickael Tavares was sent off seven minutes from the end to ensure a nervy finish but when Vedran Janjetovic kept out Yusuke Tanaka’s volley in stoppage time, a memorable victory was theirs.
WHAT THEY SAID
"We can't be happier to be honest, it was very important to get the three points. They (Wanderers) gave everything tonight, credit to them, but we were better." - Sydney FC striker Marc Janko
"It's very devastating, we worked hard. We started off slow, 3-0 down and to get back to 3-3 and lose, it's a hard loss." - Wanderers striker Kerem Bulut
0-1 Covic OG (10’) – Milos Dimitrijevic curled in a corner from the left and aimed for a pack of players – including Janko – at the near post. As the players challenged for the ball, it struck the shoulder of Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley and went on to the crossbar, rebounding back out onto Covic and into the net.
0-2 Janko (18’) – Alex Brosque surged through the middle before sending Bernie Ibini clear into space down the right. Ibini’s shot from the top of the box was deflected into the path of Chris Naumoff, who in turn found Janko and the big Austrian showed all his striker's instincts, poking the ball towards goal in traffic with it hitting the post and trickling in.
0-3 Janko (24’) – A hopeful long ball forward by Sebastian Ryall isolated Janko with Wanderers centre-back Brendan Hamill on the edge of the home side’s box. Reacting quickest, Janko swooped on the loose ball and coolly side-footed it past Covic into the corner.
1-3 La Rocca (33’) – Yojiro Takahagi’s looping free-kick made its way to the far post, with Hamill jumping over the top of Ryall to nod the ball back across the face of goal. It was perfectly placed with La Rocca on hand to volley it in from close range.
2-3 Bulut (42’) – Takahagi was involved again, splitting the Sydney defence with a classy through ball with Nikita Rukavytsya timing his run to perfection to spring the offside trap. The winger‘s cross was just out of reach of Janjetovic, putting in on a plate for Bulut to tap in.
3-3 Bulut (53’) – After a poor defensive header by Matt Jurman, Romeo Castelen and Mark Bridge combined to release Bulut and he buried his shot into the corner from 25 yards.
3-4 Antonis (75’) – Hamill was again at fault as he failed to deal with a cross from the left, scuffing the ball straight to Antonis on the edge of the box. The midfielder took it past Hamill and from a tough angle shot across Covic into the far, bottom corner with his weaker left foot.
The Sky Blues were cruising and looked like going 4-0 up when Alex Brosque was one-on-one with Covic but laid the ball off for Naumoff who somehow missed the target with the goal gaping. It shouldn’t have mattered but proved a turning point as the Wanderers pulled a goal back just five minutes later to turn the momentum and kick-start an incredible comeback. Unfortunately for the home side it wasn’t enough.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
This was the 169th time in A-League history that a side had trailed 3-0 in a match, with the Wanderers going within a whisker of becoming just the third side to snatch a result after being behind from that scoreline.
Janko’s brace means he has now scored eight goals in his last five matches to move to the top of the goal-scorers charts with 12 for the season.
The Sky Blues have scored 19 goals in five matches since returning from the Asian Cup break.
Incredibly, before Saturday night, the Wanderers had only conceded five goals all season in front of their home fans.
Impossible to pick one moment in what was a simply astonishing 90 minutes. The whole occasion was everything you want in a derby match. Seven goals, six yellow cards, one red card, plenty of colour, passion, noise and excitement, it was a stunning advertisement for the A-League.
Having already fumbled a simple cross from Brosque just minutes earlier, it was an unhappy start for Covic to concede the first goal. With Dimitrijevic’s corner coming down inside the six-yard box, the experienced gloveman probably should have come out to punch away, instead staying on his line and paying the price. The ball ricocheting off players' shoulders, heads, the crossbar, onto Covic and into the net for a goal which wouldn’t have pleased the gloveman or his coach Tony Popovic.
THE FINAL WORD
Having failed to halt the momentum of their fierce rivals, the Wanderers turn their attention back to the ACL with Guangzhou Evergrande coming to Parramatta on Wednesday night before a trip to Brisbane to play Roar on Sunday afternoon.
Sydney FC will be chasing a fifth win in six matches and another chance to close the gap on the league leaders when they travel up to Newcastle to face the struggling Jets on Friday night.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic, Tanaka, Hamill, Topor-Stanley, Golec (Gallaway 75’), La Rocca, Takahagi (Haliti 83’), Bridge, Castelen, Bulut (Juric 58’), Rukavytsya
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall (Grant 67’), Jurman, Petkovic, Gersbach, Tavares, Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Naumoff (Antonis 69’), Janko (Smeltz 65’)
Scorers: Covic (og) 10’, Janko 18’, Janko 24’, La Rocca 33’, Bulut 42’, Bulut 53’, Antonis 75’
Red cards: Tavares 83’
Yellow cards: Ryall 19’, Tavares 32’, Tanaka 40’, Bulut 54’, Gersbach 60’, Tavares 83’
Conditions: 27C, Dry
Attendance: 19,484 @ Pirtek Stadiumcomments