Sky Blues selection dilemma as ‘bleached-blonde assassin’ strikes again

Sydney have bested Melbourne City on their own turf with a 2-1 victory to gain a spot in the Australia Cup final.

Sydney FC striker Patrick Wood continued his fine start to the 2023-24 campaign, scoring his fourth goal in four games in the Sky Blues’ 2-1 victory over Melbourne City in the 2023 Australia Cup semi-final.

Wood has been entrusted with the starting role at the pointy-end of attack for the Sky Blues, since the departure of Adam Le Fondre for Scottish side Hibernian and has thus far, rewarded coach Steve Corica’s faith.

His fourth goal of the campaign comes at an important point, with new Brazilian striker Fabio Gomes making his club debut off the bench against City, thus providing some strong competition heading into the beginning of the A-Leagues season next month.

But Wood right now has his nose ahead in the race to be Sydney’s main option up top.

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“I don’t know, just a lot of hard work, I guess,” Wood told Network 10, when asked what he put his rich vein of form down to.

“A lot of focus is on the youth at SFC this year, so it’s good for me and we have Fabio (Gomes) coming in now, so a bit of competition, which is always helpful.

“I just love scoring goals, so I keep doing it.”

The striker – who was dubbed the “bleach blonde assassin” by Network 10 pundit Daniel McBreen – opened the scoring with a venomous strike at the near-post, but almost went from hero to villain when his back-pass led to Jamie Maclaren pulling one back for City.

However, Sydney were able to stay firm and book their place in a fourth Cup final, where they will face Melbourne Knights or Brisbane Roar.

“I don’t know, it was just a bit of a brain snap!” Wood said about the mistake.

Corica – who has backed in Wood from the start of this campaign – was full of praise for Wood post-game as well.

“Congratulations to him as well. He scored a fantastic goal,” he told Network 10.

“Obviously a another opportunity in that first half as well which Jamie Young made a great save, so obviously there’s always decisions to be made, but he’s, put his hand up. He made a great assist as well, with their goal!

“All in all, I was very pleased with him and the work rate that he has. He has also worked very hard for the team tonight and he got his goal and he’s got four goals now in in the Cup, so he’s doing a great job.”

Sydney ended the game with both Wood and Gomes leading the line, which also showcased another option Corica has going into the upcoming decider and the season.

McBreen believes the eight minutes they played together at the end of the game may have provided Corica with another option to consider.

“When you think about the Brazilian boy (Gomes) coming in as well, who’s supposed to be quick. They could be a a lethal duo, potentially if they played as a two, which we’ve seen Sydney do in the past,” McBreen said.

“On two occasions, he really burnt the Melbourne City defenders. First chance, hit the post, it was a quality finish. Jamie Young obviously trying to make himself big and low at the near post, and he rifled it into the top of the net.”

A key to Sydney’s strong form up-front has been Joe Lolley, who added his first goal of the campaign to go with a whopping five assists in four games.

“Now this man for me could put his hand up to be potentially the player of the tournament,” McBreen said.

“He’s been fantastic as the whole competition has unfolded.

“This is what we’re so accustomed to see him doing… He comes in this time, comes inside and inevitably, as we warned, as we said on the commentary, as we said at halftime, he take steps inside and puts one in the back of the net.”