Six memorable moments from your club's 2018/19 season: Sydney FC
The euphoria of the Hyundai A-League Grand Final is probably still keeping a smile on the face of most Sydney FC fans. It was a memorable achievement, but there was so much more from 2018/19 for them to be thrilled about.
After the gut-wrenching end to the 2017/18 campaign, which the Sky Blues dominated throughout only to miss out agonisingly on the Grand Final, Sydney FC took a step into the unknown, with Steve Corica taking the reins of Graham Arnold’s back-to-back Premiers heading into the new season.
And while the pieces of the puzzle may not have all fitted together from day one, the jigsaw was eventually wrapped up in electrifying style.
We look at some of the moments along the way that will stand out to supporters on the blue side of the Harbour City.
The day it all began
There had been glimpses heading into the Hyundai A-League season to get Sky Blues fans dreaming of what 2018/19 might have in store.
A stunning 3-0 FFA Cup Semi Final victory over Western Sydney Wanderers got the juices flowing, before a 1-1 draw with Adelaide in the Hyundai A-League opener tempered expectations somewhat.
The ball really got rolling, though, in Round 2 when Corica’s charges faced their bitter rivals from the west of the city in front of 30,000-plus in the first football match at the Sydney Cricket Ground in more than 30 years.
Adam Le Fondre reaffirmed his predatory instincts, making it two ‘sausage rolls’ in two games to kick-start an absorbing clash, before Alex Brosque did what Alex Brosque does – score in Sydney derbies. His fourth derby strike tied Adrian Mierzejewski’s record. That’s when the drama really ramped up.
Roly Bonevacia’s second-half goal was ruled out by a VAR review to the fury of those in Red and Black, not least an irate Markus Babbel.
That flashpoint resulted in Wanderers’ head coach marking his first derby by being sent to the stands. Corica took the bragging points and a memorable first three points as Sydney FC head coach.
A Brosquinho masterclass
Alex Brosque had done it all. Almost.
Heading into Round 11, the 35-year-old club icon and former Caltex Socceroo had won two Premierships, two Championships and an FFA Cup. But the all-time most capped Sydney FC player and the club's all-time top goalscorer had never scored a competitive senior hat-trick.
Central Coast sent a scare through Netstrata Jubilee Stadium when Connor Pain made it 1-0 early on. Kalifa Cisse’s red card put a dent in their chances but the Mariners held a 1-0 half-time lead. Then, a four-goal salvo in 15 second-half minutes flipped the game on its head.
Three of those came from Brosque, while Le Fondre squeezed in a penalty, and it’s the strike that brought up that precious maiden treble that will live longest in the memory.
Racing on to Siem de Jong’s through ball, Brosque took one touch to control and one look at goalkeeper Ben Kennedy advancing off his line. A delicate chip-shot later and those in attendance were in awe. It was a finish of the highest quality.
Ivanovic lights up Kogarah on his first start
The nation had been treated to some genuine flashes of excitement from young forward Luke Ivanovic’s six cameo appearances heading into Round 17.
The 18-year-old’s first start, against Melbourne City, was set to give the Sky Blues faithful a real chance to see what the prodigious talent was capable of.
It took only nine minutes for the sparks to fly when Ivanovic collected Milos Ninkovic’s pass and his fast feet took over. Two quick touches and the ball was beyond Eugene Galekovic and in the City net.
Ivanvoic had shocked his parents by not telling them he was starting. Sadly, the show would not stretch beyond the 32nd minute when he was forced off with a hamstring injury.
He made only four more substitute appearances in the rest of the Hyundai A-League season, but Sydney FC supporters will have seen enough to have high hopes for the next time the teenager pulls on a Sky Blue jersey.
Sky Blues pull on the Green and Gold
Earning selection for the national team comes on the back of consistent performance at club level and that was certainly the case for Sydney FC trio Rhyan Grant, Brandon O'Neill and Andrew Redmayne.
Grant's sensational start to the campaign saw him picked in Graham Arnold's Caltex Socceroos squad for January's AFC Asian Cup, where the right-back played all five matches, starting in four of them.
The 28-year-old maintained his form right through to Sydney FC's Grand Final triumph, ensuring he maintained his position in the national side for June's friendly international against Korea Republic in Busan.
But this time Grant was not the only Sky Blues star in Arnold's squad.
After playing key roles in Sydney's title success, midfielder Brandon O'Neill and goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne were also called up, making their Caltex Socceroos debuts in a narrow 1-0 defeat.
While the result did not go their way, it was a memorable occasion for the duo, who each received a signed jersey to celebrate their debut.
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Slapping Victory for six to reach the Grand Final
Almost 12 months to the day earlier, Sydney FC players had been left shattered on the Allianz Stadium pitch after seeing their Championship hopes ended following agonising Semi Final defeat to Big Blue rivals Melbourne Victory.
So while the players weren't saying it publicly, a rematch a year on was the perfect opportunity to exact some sweet revenge.
And the Sky Blues did just that...and then some.
Not in their wildest dreams could Sydney FC players or fans have imagined they would put six goals past their bitter foes in the Final Series.
But a ruthless Sky Blues showed no mercy as they crushed Kevin Muscat's men 6-1 in front of their home fans, who could scarcely believe what they were seeing.
“It was a crazy night,” Brosque told a-league.com.au moments after full-time.
“To say we’re five goals better than Melbourne is simply not the case. Tonight, was just us getting everything right, where everything goes the way you hope it will."
…and, of course, being crowned Hyundai A-League Champions again
Perth Glory may have been the runaway Premiers, but the Sky Blues headed to Optus Stadium for the Grand Final confident in the knowledge they had beaten Tony Popovic's men twice in three meetings during the regular season.
What followed was typically tight and tense affair between the two sides, who could not be split after 120 absorbing minutes.
Like they had been in their 2010 and 2017 title wins, the Sky Blues were forced to go to a penalty shootout to get their hands on the 'toilet seat'.
Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne was the hero for Sydney, with his dancing display bringing two saves in the shootout – from Andy Keogh and Brendon Santalab – leaving Reza Ghoochannejhad to dispatch the winning penalty for Corica’s men.
It sparked jubilant scenes as the Sky Blues joined Victory as four-time Hyundai A-League champions.
Rookie coach Corica got his hands on the trophy in his first season in the dugout, 13 years after his goal won the inaugural Hyundai A-League Grand Final for Sydney over Central Coast Mariners in March 2006.
“Scoring the [inaugural Grand Final] winner was pretty good, but this is a different moment, a special moment," Corica said.
"A lot of work goes into it and it’s paid off in the end. I’m very proud of everyone."