Sydney FC coach Steve Corica admits to being concerned about his team’s A-League Men’s finals prospects after they dropped out of the top six following a 2-2 home draw with Macarthur.
Wellington’s win over Brisbane also on Wednesday lifted the Phoenix above both teams and Melbourne Victory into fourth, with Macarthur dropping to sixth and Sydney seventh.
Macarthur central defender Aleksandar Susnjar scored at both ends in a lively derby at Netstrata Jubilee Oval, where the Bulls let a 2-0 first-half lead slip and had to settle for a point.
Worryingly for Sydney FC, who haven’t missed the finals since 2015-16, the three teams around them have all played two to three games less.
“Obviously concerned of course, you’ve got to start to win games, that’s the only way you get into finals,” said Corica, who has guided his club to the grand final in all three seasons he has been in charge.
“Draws, losses, are no good for you, there’s a lot of teams around that position that can sneak in.”
His Macarthur counterpart Ante Milicic was disappointed to let a 2-0 lead slip, but happy his team remained ahead of Sydney on the ladder.
“This result means they don’t overtake us and there’s a game less,” Milicic said.
“We’ve got seven to go, they’ve got six to go, we knew we had to get something tonight.”
Milicic allayed fears over the condition of promising midfielder Charles M’Mombwa, who was substituted in the second half.
“Initially the reports I got, I thought it was his heart and his chest, but now speaking to the doctor what happened is he copped a knock and it hit his ribs which has affected his breathing,” Milicic said.
“Charles is okay, he’ll be fine to back up on Sunday.”
The Bulls looked in control after an early Ulises Davila penalty awarded for a foul on him by Sydney goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle and a sweet close range volley from Susnjar gave them a 2-0 lead.
Sydney got a lifeline five minutes before half-time through a slick finish from Trent Buhagiar following good work from the outstanding Max Burgess and youngster Callum Talbot.
Referee Chris Beath originally blew for offside but awarded the goal after a VAR call.
The Sky Blues were level eight minutes after half-time when Susnjar turned a Burgess cross into his own net.
“To go in at half-time 2-1 (instead of 2-0) changes the momentum and dynamics of the football game,” Milicic said.
“The second half you expect them to come at you again and to concede an own goal, which at this level we need to defend better, and we go home disappointed.”
Early on, Sydney’s Kosta Barbarouses hit a post and then had a goal disallowed for offside, but Corica was disappointed with his team’s slow ball speed and lack of forward runs in the first half.
“A little bit disappointed with the first half obviously but proud of the second-half performance,” Corica said.”