Sydney FC are heaping the pressure on Melbourne Victory ahead of Thursday’s grudge match, suggesting the Sky Blues don’t need to win the Big Blue so commanding is their grip on the A-League’s top spot.
Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque says Victory must win at Etihad Stadium if they are to have any chance of beating Sydney to the premiers plate.
Speaking after Sydney’s dominant 2-0 win over Adelaide United on Friday night, where Brosque scored the opener with a volley, the 33-year-old believes his club will run away with the premiership if they topple their oldest rivals after extending their undefeated start to the season to 16 games on Friday night.
Sydney opened up an eight-point gap on second-placed Victory with their win over Adelaide at Allianz Stadium. Victory were to play Perth Glory overnight.
That breathing space gave Sydney FC a sense of assurance and comfort heading into the Big Blue in Melbourne with the knowledge that even a draw will be sufficient to maintain their comfortable lead over the second-placed Victory.
“We’ve got a big game this week and it’s a must win for them, not for us,” Brosque said. “We just need to stay unbeaten and keep rolling on and keep pushing away. We definitely will be going down there for a win because we know that if we beat Melbourne Victory then there’s a big gap between us and second and that’s what we want.”
The veteran forward described Friday night’s win as a crucial three points in the context of the race for the premiership after Victory slumped to a 3-0 defeat to Wellington Phoenix in Tuesday night’s catch-up game. Sydney’s mantra since the start of pre-season has been one that focuses solely on themselves rather than rivals or the ladder, however Brosque admitted his team’s attention has drifted to the struggles of Melbourne this week.
Their shock loss has been compounded by a hefty travel schedule, which took them to Wellington, Perth and then back to Melbourne in nine days in the lead-up to Thursday’s clash against Sydney.
Despite their performance against Adelaide, capitalising on Victory’s problematic week meant the result was far more important for the Sky Blues, Brosque says.
“It was very important.” he said. “[Coach Graham Arnold] has been telling us to worry about ourselves and not worry about anyone else because if we keep doing what we’re doing then nobody is going to catch us and nothing else matters. But it is good every now and then to keep an eye on what they’re doing. The fact they dropped points midweek and they’ve got a tough road trip to Perth is good, it takes a lot more pressure off us.”
Sydney FC had to overcome a controversial first-half decision that denied them a goal, Filip Holosko’s celebrations cut short when he was ruled offside. Replays showed the Slovakian international was narrowly onside when Milos Ninkovic split Adelaide’s defence with a clever pass that should have broken the deadlock.
It was another contentious call in a season marred by officiating errors, however Arnold refused to criticise the referee. Instead, he revealed his team has been instructed not to let decisions by officials effect it and praised his players’ ability to continue on and seal a comfortable win in spite of the call.
“It’s hard, it’s hard for the linesman,” Arnold said. “A great ball from Ninkovic, the timing was perfect and Filip’s run was good. You get some and you don’t get some and that’s the way it was.
“We showed great character to forget that and move on. We spoke about it at the start of the year to remove referee decisions from the result. We want to be in control of the result itself and that’s about winning the game and winning it well.”