Kosta Barbarouses got Sydney home with a second-half strike.
Kosta Barbarouses got Sydney home with a second-half strike.

Victory old boy grabs Big Blue honours for Sydney

All who caught sight of The Cove on Sunday evening would have reminisced - or commiserated - about that "one fateful night in Sydney" back in May.

Whichever it was, this won't be the last time the Sky Blues faithful erect such a pointed souvenir, even if it did tempt fate on Melbourne Victory's first return to Jubilee Stadium.

It was right in their visitors' faces that Sydney FC fans thrust their pre-match tifo, so artfully emblazoned with illustrations of each and every one of those six semi-final goals shoved down their begrudging throats last season.

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Kosta Barbarouses got Sydney home with a second-half strike.
Kosta Barbarouses got Sydney home with a second-half strike.

This 2-1 result was no repeat of that infamous annihilation, despite Sydney FC's 90 minutes of utter domination of Victory's preposterously depleted travelling squad, evidenced by their 19 shots to Victory's four.

But, in fitting script, Kosta Barbarouses scored the winner against his old club, following Adam Le Fondre's equaliser to Ola Toivonen's opener.

"There was more pressure because of the players they had out, and if we took the game lightly we could have had a long afternoon," coach Steve Corica said.

"Tovionen's goal woke us up a bit, right on the halftime mark. We pressed a lot higher in the second half and didn't give them opportunities to play with the ball and we got our rewards from the constant pressure."

 

VICTORY BIDE TIME

They might have been missing several regular starters, but this was not an affair of similar ilk.

Last time, Aaron Calver had started the rot within three minutes.

Here, nearly an entire half ticked by before either team had taken a single shot on target. And Sydney didn't really threaten until the 38th minute of a first stanza largely devoid of chances, when Alex Baumjohann threaded a lovely ball to start a blue-shirted ping-pong match culminating in Adam Le Fondre's marginal miss.

 

It was another tough night at the office for Ola Toivonen and Victory.
It was another tough night at the office for Ola Toivonen and Victory.

STAIRWAY TOIVONEN

The shining light amid Victory's dark season start struck again on the tick of halftime, and against the run of play.

From a superb Josh Hope cross, the big Swede popped up at the far post and gave a slow-to-react Andrew Redmayne a mere glimpse of the ball as it whooshed past and into his net.

It was Victory's first real sight at goal and only the second time they'd threatened after Toivonen's earlier missed header. He later came agonisingly close to a second off a free-kick.

 

ALFIE LEVELS LEDGER

And it was deserved on the sheer weight of Sydney's possession.

Alex Wilkinson rose for a corner just after the hour and Le Fondre was on hand to deposit the package for the Englishman's ninth goal from 10 games at this ground.

The moment, which preceded Robbie Kruse's introduction off the bench, broke Victory's resistance and paved the way for …

 

Rhyan Grant had another immense game for Sydney FC.
Rhyan Grant had another immense game for Sydney FC.

… BIG BAD BARBAROUSES

He needed some wonderful work from returned Socceroo Rhyan Grant, and a one-two with the crossbar, but Barbarouses got it done against his former club.

True to the Kiwi international's word, he didn't celebrate in the presence of the former teammates with whom he won two titles.

But the match-winner means the all-time Big Blue goal count, including finals but not penalties, sits at Sydney on 76 and Victory on 73.

"It was great for him playing his old club," Corica said.

"Obviously it was an important game for him. He got off the mark two weeks ago but we wanted him to continue scoring."

 

BEYOND BLUE CUP

It was fitting that, in the Beyond Blue Cup, a partnership aiming to make a difference for those affected by anxiety, depression and suicide, The Cove also brought a banner in tribute to Seb Ryall.

The former long-serving player recently opened up about his serious mental health battles in a brave new e-book titled 'How To Die Today', a project he hopes will help others enduring the pain that twice drove him to the brink of taking his own life.