Sydney book ALM finals spot with late winner over WSW

George Clarke |

Sydney FC have won a dramatic derby against the Wanderers to seal their place in the ALM finals.
Sydney FC have won a dramatic derby against the Wanderers to seal their place in the ALM finals.

A 98th-minute winner from Jaiden Kucharski has stamped Sydney FC’s ticket to the A-League Men finals in a dramatic, last-gasp 2-1 win over rivals Western Sydney.

Leading 1-0 courtesy of a Fabio Gomes goal as the fourth official signalled seven minutes of added time, the Sky Blues looked to be cruising to a controlled victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

But things then got very uncomfortable for the 26,155 fans in the stands, the two managers and the 22 players on the pitch.Β 

A 96th-minute Zac Sapsford header pegged Sydney back and sent the Wanderers supporters into a state of delirium.

After additional time was afforded for Sapsford’s celebrations, Sydney had just one assault forward left.

Ufuk Talay’s side launched towards the Wanderers’ goal and found Kurcharski lurking at the back post.

His half-volleyed, half-scuffed shot bounced past the reach of Lawrence Thomas to secure victory for the hosts.

“The boys will be ecstatic, the boys will be buzzing and I think there’ll be a great feeling the changeroom right now,” Talay said.

“That’s just the way that we want to play – we want to keep going until the final whistle.

“I was going to be quite upset if we dropped two points but I’m very happy JK could get the goal.”

While the win assures the Sky Blues of a spot in the top six, the result has massive ramifications for the Wanderers’ aspirations of playing in the finals.

On a night when Brandon Borrello limped off with a potentially season-ending hamstring injury, Marko Rudan’s side struggled to mount anything more than flashes of sustained pressure.

Their inability to test Sydney is set to make next Saturday’s meeting with Melbourne City a potential shoot-out for the final spot in the six with just two rounds of the regular season left.

City play Perth on Sunday and can cut Western Sydney’s advantage to just a point with a win over the Glory, before Rudan’s side face Melbourne Victory in the final game of the season.

Borrello’s injury halted Sydney’s momentum midway through the first half.

For a brief period the Wanderers had the upper hand, Marcus Antonsson hitting the post before Hayden Matthews blocked a close-range Sapsford effort.

Sydney thought they had the game’s first goal when Tom Beadling turned the ball into his own net but thankfully for the centreback Rhyan Grant was offside in the build-up.

Sydney continuing to probe but it wasn’t until the 72nd minute that they made the breakthrough when Lolley crabbed infield.

Joe Lolley.
Joe Lolley’s left foot was a constant threat for Wanderers defenders. (Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS)

The Englishman fired a shot at goal which was parried away by Thomas, but only into the path of Gomes who took one touch and fired in from close range before running off to celebrate with fans.

Sapsford’s late effort got the Wanderers briefly level before Kucharski hit home to give Sydney the win and leave Rudan’s side with an unenviable path to securing top-six football.Β 

“Fighting back from 1-0 down away from home was good, but we missed a lot of good big chances in the first half,” Rudan said.

“If you don’t take your chances against a team who’s going to have a lot of the ball, they’re going to come back at some stage.”

AAP