Opinion

Nimble Ninkovic composes his own rhapsody in blue

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It was no Bohemian Rhapsody yet Sydney FC's fans were able to savour a hard-fought victory over a tough opponent and another masterful performance from that prince of playmakers Milos Ninkovic on Sunday.

The A-League premiers were made to fight hard for an unconvincing 2-0 win over Melbourne City at Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah in front of 13,000 spectators.

And as the home fans walked out of the suburban ground for the last time this season to their adopted club tune from Freddie Mercury, Ninkovic was seen yet again as the heart of the team, the man who really makes the Sky Blues tick.

Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne may have covered himself in glory with a crucial penalty save off Riley McGree with the score at 1-0 but nimble-footed Ninkovic also played a huge part in Sydney's win even though, by his own admission, he was not at his mesmerising best.

He came up with a few numbers of top class and crowned an excellent first half by providing Luke Ivanovic with a measured ball to feet and the young striker did the rest by taking a sublime first touch and putting Sydney one up with a low shot.

The Serbian marquee's form somewhat dipped in the second half as City pushed more men forward in search of an equaliser but he still found time to serve Adam Le Fondre with a weighted ball into space and the English marksman picked his time to slip the ball under Eugene Galekovic's diving body to seal the home team's win.

City had their chances but fluffed their lines when it mattered most.

Ninkovic must be a perfectionist. He said after the game that he felt he could have done better although he admitted the heat could have affected the performance of both sets of players.

"To be honest I cannot understand why we have to play at five when it's so hot," Ninkovic said.

"It was not a good performance for us with the ball but last week we played well against Melbourne Victory and we lost.

"So it was good for the team that we could win without playing well.

"I was not really satisfied with my own performance but I'm happy with the two assists. That's good, not just for me but for the team."

Sydney of late have become somewhat pragmatic in their playing style, although it is unclear if this is a change of direction in the playing approach or just a temporary measure born out of necessity. Sydney have several players out injured, among them Dutch star Siem de Jong.  

They sat back against City after taking the lead in the first half and had many players behind the ball whenever the visitors had possession. They relied on Ninkovic's vision and promptings to launch a series of counter-attacks which often came to nothing because the final ball was generally poor.

Who knows, Sydney might be tempted to be more defence-minded on a regular basis because in Ninkovic they have a playmaker with the ability to play 30- or 40-metre passes from his own half that can turn defence into attack in a split second.

"We want to be compact defensively first and foremost," coach Steve Corica said.

"Once we win the ball back we need the space for our quality players like Ninkovic who can play the right passes."

Ninkovic blotted his copybook by conceding the late penalty that could have cost Sydney dearly but perhaps justice was done when Redmayne saved McGree's kick because at best it was a very harsh decision on the part of referee Jarred Gillett.

"Look, you cannot just do nothing in front of goal. Everybody does a bit of short-pulling during set-pieces. It's normal so I thought the ref's decision was soft," Ninkovic said.

"But thankfully Redmayne saved us again today."

So will Ninkovic buy his goalkeeper a beer for sparing his blushes?

"I don't think he likes beer, he likes whisky so it's going to cost me more," he said.