Relentless Sydney FC overpower Premiership-chasing Mariners in statement win

Sydney FC huffed and puffed, and eventually blew away Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in a dominant Isuzu UTE A-League performance.

For 73 minutes, Sydney were frustrated by defending champions and Premiership-chasing Central Coast but Anthony Caceres broke their stubborn resistance at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

Caceres’ well-taken volley put the Sky Blues ahead before Socceroos full-back Joel King scored his first Sydney goal three minutes later in the 77th minute as the home side made it five wins in six matches against Central Coast.

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With the win, fifth-placed Sydney cemented their spot in the top six and moved within six points of the second-placed Mariners and a point behind Macarthur FC and Melbourne Victory through 22 games.

Asked if Sydney had made a statement, head coach Ufuk Talay told Network 10: “Yeah, I think from start to finish, I thought we dominated the game with and without the ball.

“In the first half, with the domination we had with the ball, we didn’t reward ourselves. It was great to get two goals in the second half and get the three points at home.”

Man of the match and Sydney star Caceres was asked if it was the team’s most dominant performance of the season and he said: “Yeah, I think it was.

“We had a hold on the game from the beginning. First half we did little with the possession we had and in the second half we lifted… We kept a good intensity throughout the game.”

Caceres added: “We’ve worked extremely hard since (Talay) came in to develop this fitness base we have. The style we play is extremely demanding.

“It took a bit of adjusting but we’ve come to a point now where we’re very confident in our fitness and the game plan, so we know any time in the game we can turn it on and be decisive.”

“We don’t stop, as Uffie says,” Caceres continued. “We need to perform all the time if we want to be successful.”

For the Mariners, who had lost one of their past 23 matches in all competitions, tasted defeat for the first time since going down to the Sky Blues in February.

Sydney controlled proceedings from the opening whistle, ending the first half with 66% possession and seven shots compared to just one from Central Coast.

However, the Sky Blues did not have a goal to show for their efforts on home soil.

There was a great chance for Sydney to hit the front in the 26th minute when Brian Kaltak gave the ball away playing out from the back. Jordan Courtney-Perkins was on hand to dispossess and he picked out Joe Lolley, who was then unable to hit the target.

A minute later, Mariners star Danny Vukovic made a strong save to keep out Jaiden Kucharski.

Central Coast full-back Mikael Doka almost walked the ball in the net just past the half-hour mark. He drifted past two defenders as he drove into the box towards the byline and Andrew Redmayne after a pulsating run.

Some desperate and wonderful defending from Kaltak prevented a certain goal before half-time as the Vanuatu international made a last-ditch clearance.

A free-kick almost caught Redmayne out in the second half as the game started to open up, while a pair of substitutes then went close to breaking the deadlock approaching the hour.

Sydney’s Fabio Gomes was the first to be denied by Vukovic, while Alou Kuol threatened for the Mariners at the other end.

The Sky Blues continued to ask questions of a Mariners side under pressure and defending desperately and the home side got their goal 16 minutes from the end.

Lolley’s goal was met by Caceres, who volleyed past Vukovic to break Central Coast’s stubborn resistance.

The Mariners had no answers three minutes later, despite two goal-saving clearances from Kaltak as King’s low shot proved too hot to handle for Vukovic, bringing up Sydney’s third straight A-Leagues win against the Mariners – their best run of form since 2018.