How the west was won: the tactical masterstroke which helped Sydney FC to grand final glory


Attackers win you matches but defenders win you titles, they say.

This adage could not have been any more prevalent than in Sydney FC's tense grand final win against Perth Glory that gave them a fourth A-League championship.

The Sky Blues played a tactically impeccable match to stifle Perth's free-scoring attack for a goalless draw that went to penalties.

Steve Corica's men held their nerve to win the shootout 4-1 and stun the record crowd for a grand final of 56,000.

Sydney were forced to limit their basic instincts of attack when faced with such a potent force as Perth's ... which is where Corica came in.

He devised a prudent game of containment based on a watertight defence without being negative.

Corica also made sure his players gave danger man Diego Castro no time or space to weave his special brand of wizardry.

The home side attacked more and at times looked likely to score but in truth only on a couple of occasions did they force Andrew Redmayne into making a save.

The much-improved goalkeeper was one of Sydney's best players on the night, not so much for thwarting a goalbound Castro header but also for saving two penalties in the shootout with an interesting display of gamesmanship a la Bruce Grobbelaar.

Redmayne was not the only Sydney hero.

Veteran centre-half Alex Wilkinson did not lose one single battle on the ground or in the air all night and, along with young Aaron Calver, formed an impregnable barrier through which Perth could not make any headway.

Wilkinson and Calver were ably protected by defensive midfielders Josh Brillante and Brandon O'Neill who played one of their strongest games of the season as a holding partnership.

Sydney's pragmatic approach contrasted sharply with the mentality shown the previous week when they mercilessly thrashed Melbourne Victory 6-1.

This shows quite clearly Sydney's capacity to adapt effortlessly to the differing demands posed by different teams and circumstances. So kudos to Corica.

Perth have every reason to feel deflated for missing out on the title they deserved after being the best team all season.

Sydney captain Alex Brosque, who retires with yet another league championship medal, was gracious enough to acknowledge Perth's overall dominance after the game.

Yet Perth were not good enough to get the job done when it mattered most, same as Sydney themselves failed in the final straight last season after playing the best football in 2017-2018.

Sydney's victory saved the game from having yet another soul-destroying VAR controversy to deal with after a goal from Sydney in the first half was ruled out for offside when it was clear that an error had been made by the on-field officials.

It is extraordinary that even with the aid of technology the mistake was not rectified. Which makes you wonder why we have VAR in the first place when our referees still keep getting things wrong even with the aid of VAR.

All in all, it was a war of attrition in the west with no quarter asked or given and which unfortunately had to be decided by penalties, which is never the most satisfactory way to win a trophy.

But that's the way it is and Sydney will celebrate their fourth championship they feel they should have won last season.