Coach’s insight into tactic that swung the derby & the opponent’s trait ‘we see as a gift’

Catch all the highlights from Sydney FC's comprehensive derby win over Western Sydney Wanderers

Sydney Derby bragging rights belong to Sydney FC after a comprehensive 4-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

The Sky Blues struck twice through Rhyan Grant and Fabio Gomes within the opening seven minutes to set up the statement result. 

Robert Mak made it 3-0 soon after half-time before a calamitous mix-up between Tom Beadling and Wanderers keeper Daniel Margush invited Fabio in to bag his second and put Sydney out of sight.

The Wanderers pegged one back through Zac Sapsford in the 72nd minute – yet the former Sky Blue’s strike may go down as an own goal to Jake Girdwood-Reich.

Despite the goal giving the hosts a glimmer of hope, it wasn’t enough to spark the unlikeliest of comebacks as Sydney FC took all three points away from Wanderland.

The result helped Ufuk Talay’s side climb above Western Sydney into fifth spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League table, continuing a seven-game unbeaten run for one of the in-form teams of the competition.  

The visitors came out swinging at CommBank Stadium, carving out a two-goal lead inside seven minutes.

The opening goal came from veteran full-back Grant with just three minutes on the clock; the Sky Blues struck via a corner routine, with Joe Lolley and Anthony Caceres playing a one-two before the former’s delivery into the box, met by Grant who headed his side into the lead with authority.

Grant’s opener put the Wanderers behind the eight ball but the shock start turned into a nightmare when referee Alex King adjudged Lachlan Brook to have handled the ball in the box, awarding a penalty to the Sky Blues.

Corey Hollman had won a loose ball for Sydney in the box and his touch repelled off the arm of Brook inside the area; Fabio planted the ball on the spot and sent Daniel Margush the wrong way to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

Wanderers midfielder Sonny Kittel tried in vain to peg one back but was denied by Andrew Redmayne in goal; his save spilled to Brandon Borrello who gave Redmayne another test – a test passed by the Sky Blues gloveman.

Borrello had the ball in the back of the net after a one-on-one with Redmayne but the offside flag denied the Wanderers the deficit-halver as Sydney took a two-goal lead into the break.

The Wanderers kept their opponents waiting for the second-half restart as they dissected the first-half action in the changerooms; although the home fans were hoping the break would lead to a reaction, what was to come was a continuation of the Sky Blue onslaught, carried on by Mak who bagged his side’s third five minutes after the restart.

Sydney’s pressure was relentless and the all-energy approach from Talay’s side drew mistakes and loose touches out of the Wanderers.

And that pressure told just before the hour mark when a mixup between Tom Beadling and Wanderers keeper Margush invited Fabio to pounce on the ball inside the box and tuck away his second of the night.

Sapsford was the hero for Western Sydney in the first derby of the season, scoring the solitary goal in November’s 1-0 win for the Wanderers and after coming off the bench with his team trailing 4-0 on Saturday, put a 72nd-minute consolation strike in the back of the net to deprive Sydney a clean sheet.

The finish was heavily deflected off Girdwood-Reich on its way over the line and may go down as an own goal to the Sydney defender.

Sydney lost to the Wanderers at home in November, in what was Talay’s second game in charge. Sixteen games later, the team’s identity and playing style is clear.

In Saturday’s derby triumph, Sydney showcased their relentless pressing game – a key component of the Sky Blues’ tactics instilled by Talay since his arrival at the club.

The Wanderers tried to play through their opponent’s pressure and rescinded possession to the visitors time and again as a result.

“The boys, a great sight for me, was that they didn’t stop,” Talay told Paramount+ post-game. “They kept going, they kept pressing – and pressure forces mistakes.

“The best thing was also, we capitalised on those moments when we did win the ball.

“I think we won 79% of all the duels tonight, which is very important the way we play. Winning the ball up higher, it’s shorter to goal… we were very clinical in those moments.”

“When you analyse, you look at the spaces we open up and the spaces that we leave. But what you can’t see is the intensity of the press,” Talay added.

“Teams will still think at times that there are spaces to play through – which is great for us, we see that as a gift.

“When teams want to play through, that’s an opportunity for us to press and like I said tonight, the boys executed it very well.”

Sydney midfielder Anthony Caceres joined Talay in commending his teammates for committing to the strategy laid out by Talay, and the style of play that has seen the Sky Blues mount their seven-game unbeaten run.

“Everything went to plan,” Caceres told Paramount+.

“We’ve grown a lot since the last time we played them, and it showed tonight. There’s a big difference in our style of play, our approach, and in our confidence. We executed the game plan perfectly with our high, aggressive press. From that, we were able to get good chances and took advantage when they came. Over the moon with the result.”

“Our game plan is quite clear: we want to be the protagonist every game, we have a very demanding style of play which we work at every day, and we’ve really gelled as a team,” Caceres added.

“At this point we’re full of confidence. We know that if we do the right thing and stick to the game plan it will give us a very good chance of winning games.”