Blues brothers:Sydney players celebrate with Terry Antonis after his stunning opener.Sydney FC back on top after 2-0 win over Mariners
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold is convinced his top-of-the-table side will only get better after relying on two set-pieces to secure a 2-0 win over the Central Coast Mariners at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The home side appeared to dominate the contest but needed a stunning drive from Terry Antonis and a deflected effort from his midfield partner Milos Dimitrijevic to secure the result.
While the Mariners never really seemed in the contest after the Sky Blues went ahead in the first half, Arnold said the performance left room for improvement, even if it was their third straight win.
“Overall I was reasonably happy with our performance. At times we were sloppy but I’m happy to get the three points,” he said. “We’re getting better and better. It’s a lot of hard work [to progress] – and a lot of hard work on the training field.”
The Sky Blues might have also kept their second straight clean sheet but the coach felt they were more convincing against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium last Friday, which ended in the same scoreline.
“I was disappointed today with our defence. We didn’t press well, we were a bit off the pace with our intensity to press. But we’ve done a lot of work on it,” he said. “I think everyone knows for me that defence is first and foremost. We need to be strong, hard to beat and today showed if you work hard in defence, and you’re structurally strong, you can score off set pieces and that was the difference today.”
Arnold was full of praise for his old club, saying they gave the Sydney more trouble than the the scoreline suggested.
“The Mariners did well. They had the wide boys coming around the back and getting on the inside of Antonis and Dimitrijevic which made us change our system for the last 15-20 [minutes],” he said “You’ve got to give full credit to the Mariners. I thought they played extremely well. Mossy is doing a great job with them and I’m sure they’ll have a good season.”
Central Coast coach Phil Moss was upbeat with the overall performance in spite of conceding the decisive goals.
“It was very disappointing to concede two set pieces and we should have defended them better,” Moss said. “But I’m very proud of my boys. The performance was [good] and I thought we played some very good football in patches. I think we played our part in what was a very entertaining game and we pushed a big club like Sydney FC right to the last minute.”
Moss felt his side would have been in with a chance of snatching a point had they been able to force a goal during the second half – one of which should have come when Mitchell Duke had an 88th-penalty saved by Vedran Janjetovic.
“Even at 2-0, we just needed that goal,” he said. “Had Duke’s effort gone in off the cross bar, or the penalty of course, it could have been a different outcome.”
The Sky Blues will face a nervous wait on the fitness of Alex Brosque after the star striker badly twisted his ankle late in the match and needed to be substituted.
Brosque, who has been in superb form this season, was tangling with Mariners’ defender Jacob Poscoliero and was reaching for the ball when his right ankle contorted awkwardly.