Opinion

Merciless Maclaren takes the lead in showdown for the crown

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Marquee marksmen Adam Le Fondre and Jamie Maclaren are paid a lot of money to score goals that win matches and trophies and they keep their end of the bargain mercilessly and with deadly effect.

Sydney FC may have secured the A-League Premiers’ Plate with four matches to spare but the top scorers’ race is much closer and destined to go down to the wire.

The clash between Sydney and Melbourne City, which could so easily have been a dress rehearsal for the grand final, lost much of its appeal after the Sky Blues secured their fourth premiership last week.

So all eyes must have been on the duel at a distance between Sydney’s English striker Le Fondre and City’s Australian counterpart Maclaren who went into the clash at a weirdly empty ANZ Stadium as joint leading scorers of the competition with 18 goals.

Le Fondre has now played 23 matches to Maclaren's 21.

Maclaren’s cheeky goal in a deserved 2-0 victory edged him in front on Le Fondre but the latter has three games left to snare the title to the former’s two. 

Maclaren was buzzing and very much in the mood in the first half, holding the ball up and bringing others into play and on one occasion testing Andrew Redmayne with a firm low drive from the side.

Le Fondre, meanwhile, was afforded precious little space and time on the ball and he failed to make any impression on City’s well organised defence.

The Englishman became more involved after the break and after missing the post with a difficult header he gave Kosta Barbarouses a golden opportunity to draw his side level after Craig Noone’s opener but the New Zealand striker fluffed his lines.

Maclaren - who else! - made Sydney pay dearly for their profligacy when he took advantage of a rare moment of indecision from Ryan McGowan, advanced towards goal and waited for Redmayne to commit before nonchalantly slotting the ball home.

The Australian was replaced soon afterwards, job done, before City saw out the match rather comfortably.

The two strikers had faced each other only twice in the league since Le Fondre joined the Sky Blues from Bolton Wanderers at the start of last season. Maclaren joined him in early 2019 after a spell with Hibernian.

Both were kept quiet in a 2-0 win for City at Leichhardt on matchday 22 in March of last year.

On the other occasion Le Fondre scored once and missed a penalty while Maclaren went home empty-handed in a 2-1 win for Sydney at Kogarah on matchday 12 last December.

Both strikers are their team’s designated penalty taker: Le Fondre converted four of five spot-kicks while Maclaren has a perfect record from three attempts. 

So a lot can happen in this showdown for the crown.

Interestingly, both players were valued at about $1.3m each by respected German website transfermarkt as recently as last April.

Perhaps the last word should go to an experienced defender who has pitted his wits against Le Fondre and Maclaren several times.

“Technically they are both excellent finishers,” Newcastle Jets’ Nikolai Topor-Stanley says.

“Their style is very similar. They are quick, strong, crafty and good in the air although Adam probably is usually better served by his midfielders than Jamie is.

“I have never played with either of them and I would be surprised if they did not work very hard at training to hone their finishing skills and become the best or second best scorer of the competition.”