Future bright for Sydney FC as young guns Tilio and van der Saag make their mark
Sydney FC’s dominance of the Hyundai A-League in recent seasons has been built on the back of a squad choc-full of experience and big-name talent.
But Sunday night’s 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners gave an indication the future of the Sky Blues is in very good hands.
Despite leading 1-0 since the eighth minute through Milos Ninkovic, the defending champions were on the back foot when coach Steve Corica decided to thrown on youngsters Harry Van der Saag and Marco Tilio late on.
But the duo showed just why the coach has so much faith in them, creating and then finishing both goals to ensure a sixth straight win for Sydney FC.
Tilio – making his Hyundai A-League debut – scored just a minute after coming off the bench after a great run and pass from Van der Saag, before the roles were reversed two minutes later.
After 18-year-old Tilio’s lung-bursting drive forward, he found Van der Saag in space and the 20-year-old rifled a shot past Mark Birighitti.
Having played significant roles in helping the Sky Blues extend their lead at the top of the ladder to a healthy 13 points, the duo were understandably ecstatic.
“I’ve been working hard towards this,” said Tilio – who scored a brace in Sydney’s NYL Grand Final win this season - on Fox Sports.
“I had a stint in the Asian Champions League last year but I hadn’t come on in the A-League and today was my chance and I thought I took it so I’m very happy.
“It’s more my game to move the ball so [Corica] said when I came on ‘if you have the chance to dribble, go do what you can do’ and that’s what I did. I’m really happy.”
Van der Saag – who famously marked PSG star Kylian Mbappe in his senior debut in pre-season – has had a handful of appearances in the Hyundai A-League and helped steady the ship for Sydney when brought on with 20 minutes left.
While predominantly a right-back, the 20-year-old played in front of Rhyan Grant and made the most of the chance to get forward with his thunderous strike from outside the box.
“Michael [Tilio] made a great run up field and he needed help because I could see he was dying a little bit so I just said ‘I’m here mate’ and there was really no one in front, I saw some space and just attacked it and thought ‘why not?’,” said van der Saag when explaining his goal.
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“It’s really exciting to get my first goal in the A-League. I’ve been striving for that this year and I’m really happy to get it.
“Bimbi [Corica] just said to me to bring a bit of energy because we were lacking a bit out there so I just thought I’d try to do that. The goal was a bonus, I’m just happy to get the win.”
Corica added of his super subs: “I’m proud of the young boys…they are doing a great job. We needed some fresh legs and they gave it to us.
“Marco coming on and scoring his first goal, [Van der Saag’s] first goal as well which was great to see.
“But we defended really well. It was a tough trip away and to come back and defend well was the main thing. It’s another clean sheet, three in a row which is good.”
Western United FC v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, 1 March
Kick-off: 4pm AEDT
Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Friday, 28 February
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 8pm AEDT