Sydney’s been smokey all week but it’s cleared at Kogarah which, while not exactly a fortress, is a long way from Brisbane, from where the Roar have travelled seeking their third win in four games.
Sydney is yet to lose to anybody except the Wanderers and while Milos Ninkovic is back this week, Michael Zullo and Brandon O’Neill are both taking their turns for a rest, out with injuries. Their sure and certain defensive work will be hard to replace with Joel King and Paolo Retre starting in their places. For Brisbane, it’s goal keeper Jamie Young’s 100th A-League game so he’ll be looking for a memorable showing.
But it’s memorable for the wrong reasons, taking just seven minutes for Sydney’s first goal.
From halfway, Sydney’s Alexander Baumjohann kicks the ball to Kosta Barbarouses who’s just inside the box, in prime position to flick it on to Adam Le Fondre who follows it through to the back of the net. Too easy.
Defensively, Brisbane’s main tactic seems to be to clear the ball immediately upon possession but this low level panic is rarely fruitful at any level. They’re stronger in attack and closer to Sydney’s goal, with Stefan Mauk and Dylan Wenzel-Halls playing with a steady chemistry that’s growing every game – a goal attempt from the latter denied by Andrew Redmayne in the tenth minute.
A disallowed goal from an offside Le Fondre via a Baumjohann pass revives Brisbane who realise they’ve got a get out of gaol card. Baumjohann is having his best game for Sydney, distributing masterclass passes to the front line perfectly placed so they just have to follow them in. Which they continue to do.
Baumjohann crosses to Barbarouses who passes to Ninko who easily shoots his shot in the 24th minute. 2-0. Then in the 41st, Rhyan Grant skies the ball to Barbarouses again, who delivers a perfectly weighted pass to Adam Lefondre, who finds the top left of the net. Barbarouses isn’t getting any goals, but he now has three assists with a low key and essential performance which sees Sydney lead 3-0 going into the break.
In the second half, Roar coach Robbie Fowler has subbed Gillesphey and Inman for Bowles and Powell, boosting defense which pays off and keeps Sydney scoreless until the 88th minute. Baumjohann has a target on his back and is on his back a few times during the second half, felled by heavy challenges the likes of which granted Tom Aldred a yellow card.
Fowler subs off Dylan Wenzel-Halls for Welsh forward Aaron Amadi-Holloway in the 59th minute, their last of the evening, and he has a reasonable attempt on goal in the 61st.
More yellow cards, this time for Le Fondre complaining of being denied a foul, and Ninkovic for leaving the pitch too slowly for referee Alireza Faghani’s liking. Anthony Caceres comes on for Ninkovic and also nearly scores straight away. Ryan Teague makes his A-League debut in the 71st minute, subbed for Luke Brattan, and Trent Buhagiar comes on for Kosta Barbarouses in the 85th minute.
Baumjohann, again, and about to play his first full 90 minute game for the season, crosses the ball from the right side of the pitch into the feet of Trent Buhagiar who sprints and scores for his fifth A-League goal ever. It’s something of a redemption story for the twenty one year old forward who was out with an ACL injury all last season.
Alfie’s on his hattrick but the clock is ticking down. Then Buhagiar, just minutes after his goal, provides an assist that finds Alfie to the left of the goal ready and able to head it in for his first A-League hattrick. It’s 5-0 and shades of the famous Sydney FC’s famous 6-1 semi-final win against Melbourne Victory last year.
The game’s not over until the whistle, though, even if the result has long since been decided. In the three minutes of injury time, Ryan Teague’s challenge on Stefan Mauk in the box is ruled too heavy and a spot kick taken by Roy O’Donovan makes it 5-1.
It wasn’t Brisbane’s night but it’s hard to see how it could’ve been any opposition’s night, with Barbarouses, Baumjohann and Buhagiar making exemplary showings. Brisbane can be consoled on their trip back home to where their skies really are Sky Blue, though that might just make them feel worse.
By Kelly Simpson