Five-star Sydney demolish Roar
Look out Jamie Maclaren, Adam Le Fondre isn't letting the golden boot go that easily.
A day after Maclaren's scarcely conceivable scoring run ended against Perth Glory, Le Fondre displaced the Melbourne City striker at the top of the goal charts courtesy of his first A-League hat-trick to compound the pain of a rudderless Brisbane Roar.
For all the upsets, anomalies and VAR controversies of recent weeks, last night's five-star, 5-1 win at Jubilee Stadium was as routine - and ruthless - as they come, bar an injury-time penalty dispatched by Roy O'Donovan.
Milos Ninkovic and Trent Buhagiar added the other two goals in a full-team performance, even in the absence of injured starters Brandon O'Neill and Michael Zullo, and marked the Sky Blues' seventh win from eight games and sent them five points clear at the summit.
Stream every game of The 2019/20 Hyundai A-League season LIVE & On-Demand with KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Even then, coach Steve Corica was adamant "we can still improve".
"I was very pleased with the first half, the whole game really," Corica said.
"We conceded a goal late on, which was not great - we wanted to keep a clean sheet. It was important we got the three points to extend our lead at the top."
SAUSAGE ROLLS GALORE
They're on the menu every week at the moment. Ten goals from eight games now, to be precise. It's lifted Le Fondre to the top of the golden-boot race and one in front of early favourite Maclaren, who has nine goals from five appearances.
Both are A-grade poachers, meaning what happens from here could go partly down to the performances of their respective teams. If fellow pace-setters City continue to dish up displays as dour as Friday's 3-0 loss to Perth Glory, the going could get tough in terms of service for Socceroos striker Maclaren.
Last night Le Fondre couldn't have asked for more, as Corica's attack gelled like never before this season. But then Sydney may have looked even better because …
...ROAR ARE ON THE SLIDE
Robbie Fowler's honeymoon with the clipboard is well and truly over. It's teams like the reigning champions that really test the mid-table types, and there wasn't much love for the Roar - particularly down their left flank. Sydney's first three goals were of a similar fashion: a ball to the right for Kosta Barbarouses, who assisted each one with a pinpoint cross. Le Fondre's second just before halftime was particularly pleasing, Rhyan Grant this time the initiator. And though Brisbane had more possession, more passes and more shots, there was never really a sense the orange would threaten meaningfully. This result leaves them lagging in 10th and a single point ahead of last-placed Central Coast, who have a game in hand. Fowler labelled it "a bad night all round". "What I will say is they have quality players who, even if they're not 100 per cent, they'll hurt you," he said. "Our players were just not at the races. For 45 minutes it wasn't acceptable. Second half we put up a bit of a fight."
MILOS STILL MAGIC
He'll be 35 on Christmas Day, but Ninkovic still possesses the magic touch that earned him the Johnny Warren Medal three seasons ago. First it was a defence-splitting pass to set up Le Fondre's seventh-minute opener. Then, a clean first-time finish to double the lead in the 25th. And the Serb still has kilometres in his legs. Suffice to say there's a reason expansion club Macarthur FC are trying to tempt him away - even if he'll practically be on a zimmer frame by the time their offer, reported by The Daily Telegraph as two years plus the option of a third, is up. Honourable mention to Alex Baumjohann for his simply lovely through ball for the second goal.
BUHAGIAR RETURNS IN STYLE
It was a triumphant return for the boy who's been recorded running 20 metres faster than Usain Bolt. This time last year the 21-year-old was in the early stages of rehabilitation for a torn anterior cruciate ligament. And after three short shifts off the bench this season, the winger was clearly in the mood for some proper action. Introduced in the 85th minute, Buhagiar's first touch was a goal in the 86th, and his second touch an assist in the 89th for Le Fondre's third - complete with a rapid recovery after tripping en route to a through ball.
SYDNEY FC 5 (Adam Le Fondre 7m, 42m, 89m, Milos Ninkovic 25m, Trent Buhagiar 86m) bt BRISBANE ROAR 1 (Roy O'Donovan 90+5m pen) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. Referee: Alireza Faghani