Sky Blues reign supreme: Dramatic turnaround leads Sydney FC to 2023 Australia Cup glory

Sydney FC 3-1 Brisbane Roar | Sky Blues fight back to claim Australia Cup crown

Sydney FC were fortunate to draw level in the Australia Cup final but overpowered Brisbane by the end to lift the trophy.

The most successful club in the A-Leagues has another trophy, though it took a generous slice of luck to set Sydney FC on the path to winning the Australia Cup.

Second best to Brisbane Roar for more than an hour at Allianz Stadium, Steve Corica’s side were thrown a lifeline through a fortunate penalty – and promptly turned the contest on its head to secure a 3-1 victory.

Two goals for Brazilian striker Fabio Gomes on his debut created a remarkable storyline, after Brisbane had written one of their own through 18-year-old Thomas Waddingham scoring the opening goal of the final.

Big games tend to revolve around big moments, and Brisbane in the end could not convert an hour of bright, inventive football into a domination of the scoreboard. One thing Sydney have rarely lacked is endurance, and in the end they were able to capitalise on the way Brisbane faded late into the contest.

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What this tells us about the season to come is another matter. The timing of this final makes it hard to know how much store to set by the teams’ performances, as they navigate the final days of pre-season.

But already through this Australia Cup campaign we have seen strong hints of the football Brisbane will try to play, and at which they are already succeeding. The tempo is sharp and the movement smart, shifting the ball in tight spaces to step around the Sydney press.

The performance was similar in the quarterfinal defeat of Western Sydney and there is an identity to his team that Ross Aloisi has managed to imprint all ready. No surprise that the style leans heavily on the year Aloisi spent in Yokahama, working under Kevin Muscat at F Marinos – the passing is crisp, controlled and easy on the eye.

Three times in the first quarter-hour Brisbane had cut through Sydney’s rearguard but their crossing was short of the required standard. The fourth time, though, there was no escape for the Sky Blues, and again Brisbane worked the opening well.

This time the move came down the right and freed Henry Hore to stroll unencumbered into Sydney’s penalty area, with time to drive in a low cross. Nikola Mileusnic met it with a shot that Rhyan Grant somehow blocked, but the rebound fell kindly for Waddingham to poke home the opening goal.

The goal was deserved for a performance of vitality on enemy territory. Aloisi’s was a bravely attacking line-up, with Mileusnic and Hore feeding on the creativity of O’Shea and Florin Berengeur. O’Shea in particular covered ground like a man half his age but always with an eye for maximum effect – whether covering teammates, or seemingly always available to take a pass and keep a move’s momentum bubbling.

Whether in the end the attack-heavy selection backfired is debatable, though Sydney will argue that they simply forced their way back into the contest by the end.

Brisbane also had reason to feel aggrieved for an ugly challenge by Jake Girdwood-Reich on Hore, his arm and should raised into the path of the young winger to effect a dangerous collision. Sydney’s young defender was extremely fortunate to escape with a yellow card, in the absence of VAR.

The frustration in Sydney’s play was obvious, for their forward thrusts could find no consistent rhythm until the last quarter. There were individual moments, like when Antony Cacares dribbled into Roar’s box and was denied only by a splendid tackle from Scott Neville.

Right on halftime there was a half chance for Pat Wood, as Joe Lolley’s whipped cross was turned narrowly wide at the near post.

But Sydney still seem to lack the spark to make a game happen; too often the option taken with the ball is a safe one, in part due to lack of options further forward. Their game becomes far more dangerous when a contest opens up, and their attacking weapons like Lolley and Robert Mak have space to run into.

Other teams will watch the way the second half here unfolded and try to avoid the lapses in concentration and energy that let Brisbane down. Early in the second half the gaps appeared in the vistors’ midfield, predictably; Macklin Freke had to hare from his line to deny Wood, and Neville somehow cut out a Lolley cross in front of his own goal.


Fabio Gomes of Sydney FC scores a penalty during the 2023 Australia Cup Final .

To Sydney’s credit they were creating some kind of pressure, though it told in an unlikely manner as a corner was flicked on into the outstretched arm of Hore to gift the Sky Blues a penalty. Only brought into the fray moments before, their new Brazilian striker Fabio Gomes stroked home the equaliser.

The goal shifted the momentum, and Lolley led the charge. With 18 minutes remaining he burst down the right and drive the perfect cross low to the far post, where Mak turned in Sydney’s second.

Valiantly Brisbane tried to find a second goal but as the game moved into stoppage time, Freke spilled a shot from distance and Gomes gratefully turned in the game’s final goal. Winners, as they say, are grinners, and for tonight at least the Sky Blues were beaming.