Sky Blues still in the hunt

Sydney FC kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Asian Champions League knockout phase when they held Shanghai SIPG to a 2-2 draw in China.

Steve Corica's side have yet to win after four rounds of the group stages but have drawn three games, including back-to-back clashes with the Chinese team.

Adam le Fondre, who scored in the 3-3 draw with the Chinese Super League champions at Jubilee Oval earlier in the month, earned them a point with his second-half header this time.

The Sky Blues remain two points behind Shanghai SIPG, who are in the second qualifying spot in Group H, with two rounds left.

They are likely to have to win both of their remaining matches, away to Ulsan Hyundai and at home to Kawasaki Frontale, next month to have any chance of progressing.

Corica had named an unchanged team from the one that beat Perth Glory 1-0 in their last outing but star midfielder Milos Ninkovic felt unwell in the warm-up so he was withdrawn from the side.

Goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne made early saves from Brazilians Hulk and Oscar before Sydney FC made the breakthrough on 33 minutes.

The move started with Rhyan Grant's run down the right and, after Reza Ghoochannejhad fed Anthony Caceres, he played in Brandon O'Neill who had made a run from deep. O'Neill directed his low shot perfectly behind keeper Yan Jungling into the corner of the net.

The home side made a switch at the break, sending on Elkeson, and coach Vitor Pereira was rewarded for the move just two minutes into the second half when the substitute beat le Fondre in the air to head home Oscar's corner.

Shanghai took the lead just before the hour mark when Wang Shenchao slammed home a cross from Zhang Wei on the volley. But three minutes later Sydney FC got back on terms, Siem De Jong's powerful cross being glanced home by the head of le Fondre.

Sydney FC are 2/1 to win the A-League Grand Final and 21/10 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/5 with the draw 5/2.

Sky Blues want to keep Caceres

Sydney FC are reported to be trying to sign on-loan midfielder Anthony Caceres from Manchester City.

Caceres has been a first team regular under coach Steve Corica since he joined in January, making 15 appearances in all competitions.

The 26-year-old has never played for City since he signed for them in January 2016, but has a year left on his contract with the Premier League side. He moved to England after playing 62 A-League games for Central Coast Mariners.

City loaned him out to Melbourne City for the 2016/17 season, where he scored three goals in 38 matches.

He then had a stint on loan with Al-Wasl in the United Arab Emirates, before having another spell with Melbourne City last year when he played five times.

Corica described him after Thursday's 1-0 win over minor premiers Perth Glory as the Sky Blues' hardest working player, and he is keen to keep him at the club.

Caceres said: "I am not certain about what's going to happen from now. I have really enjoyed myself from the moment I arrived here and I have been pushing to hopefully stick around.

"It's my home city, it's a club that has been successful and I see that continuing in the same fashion in the coming seasons. It's a place where I see myself excelling and developing as a footballer."

He added: "I feel like I am myself here, it's my home city also which helps having family around. I am playing football here and enjoying it which I think is the biggest difference for me."

Caceres is set to play for the Sky Blues in Tuesday's Asian Champions League clash with Chinese champions Shanghai SIPG.

Sydney FC must win in Shanghai if they are to keep their hopes of progression to the knockout stages alive.

Sydney FC are 2/1 to triumph in the A-League Grand Final, while the Sky Blues are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League.

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Le Fondre strike beats Glory

Sydney FC beat minor premiers Perth Glory for the second time this season and closed in on second spot when they won 1-0 at Jubilee Oval.

The Sky Blues picked up a fifth victory in seven games to move five points clear of third-placed Melbourne Victory.

The performance was not the big statement Sydney FC fans had hoped for ahead of the Finals Series, and the only goal of the game won't make any highlight reels of 2018/19.

But Adam le Fondre's 16th goal of his first campaign for the Sky Blues was enough to down the visitors as they suffered just their third loss of the season.

The Glory made six changes to their squad and left five of their first team regulars at home.

Coach Tony Popovic handed his 17-year-old son Kristian his debut off the bench in the second half, and he came closest to a goal when his long-range shot threatened to drop into the net.

Perth weren't able to fashion a shot on goal, but neither did the hosts pose much of a threat up front.

The goal came eight minutes before the break, when a well-weighted Anthony Caceres cross found Paulo Retre at the far post and his header was deflected into lap of le Fondre standing on the goal line.

It was an unmissable chance, and gave him his first A-League goal in seven weeks.

The Sky Blues almost doubled their lead five minutes into the second half when le Fondre slipped a pass through Perth's defence to find Retre but the fullback could only find the side netting.

That miss was nearly punished moments later when Fabio Ferreira missed the target with a half-volley against his former team.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar are 7/2 to beat Newcastle on Saturday. The Jets are 7/10, while the draw is 16/5.

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Sky Blues need chance to freshen up

Skipper Alex Brosque has declared both Sydney FC's remaining A-League games are 'must-win' affairs as the Sky Blues battle for second spot.

Brosque, who has announced he will retire at the end of the season, says it's important that Steve Corica's side go into the Finals Series in the best position.

Finishing second will give them a week off when the finals start, which will be significant as they would otherwise face a tough schedule.

They are battling Melbourne Victory for the runners-up spot behind Perth Glory – currently the Sky Blues have a two-point advantage.

Whichever of the teams misses out on second place would have to play an A-League elimination final on the weekend of 3rd-4th May and then fly off for an Asian Champions League game in midweek.

Sydney FC take on Ulsan Hyundai in South Korea on 7th May while Victory face another Korean side, Daegu FC, the following day.

Brosque said: "We've got two (A-League) games left and I think both of them are must-win.

"We've got a lot of travel with the Champions League and just the fact we're competing in both competitions, I think that week off will be welcome to us and give us a bit of a chance to freshen up."

The Sky Blues take on Perth on Thursday and finish their regular season with a trip to Newcastle Jets on 27th April.

Brosque is a 50-50 chance to take on the Glory, after hurting his heel in the 1-1 draw against Western Sydney at the weekend.

He said: "It's not too bad, it's been improving every day, it's still quite sore but I got scans on it yesterday and the results are quite positive."

Sydney FC are 5/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Sky Blues are 6/5 to win their next game against Perth Glory, who are 11/5 with the draw 12/5.

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Sage: Glory vision achieved early

Owner Tony Sage admits the speed of Perth Glory's Premiers' Plate success under coach Tony Popovic has come as a surprise.

The West Australian club have clinched the minor premiership with two rounds to go in the regular season, following their 1-0 win at home to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

It is the first time they have topped the A-League, though they were a big force in its predecessor the National Soccer League.

Sage said plans were hatched midway through last season – when the Glory failed to make the Finals Series under Kenny Lowe – for a different strategy and a new coach.

They turned to Popovic, who had led Western Sydney Wanderers to the premiership in the club's inaugural season, largely due to the urging of football manager Jacob Burns.

"There were several coaching candidates available and Jacob pushed and pushed for Popa (Tony Popovic)," said Sage.

"The vision has been fulfilled a year earlier than we expected – we had to make a decision on which direction we were going to go."

The 15-year silverware drought ended with the victory against the Jets when captain Diego Castro lifted the Premiers' Plate.

Now Sage, who has poured nearly $30 million into the Glory in more than a decade, says the club want to go on and win the championship and then start planning for next year's Asian Champions League campaign.

"We're up for the challenge – it's only going to be a feather in everyone's cap if we can do it," he added. "Asia has been a dream of mine from day one; it's going to be huge."

Perth Glory are 5/4 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/8 with the draw 9/4.

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Wanderers hurt rivals’ chances

Western Sydney all but killed off Sydney FC's chances of winning the A-League Premier's Plate when they held the Sky Blues to a 1-1 draw in the derby at ANZ Stadium.

With Steve Corica's men needing victory to give themselves any realistic chance of catching Perth Glory and winning the premiership for the third consecutive season, it was their rivals who arguably were deserving of three points.

They conceded the opening goal to Alex Brosque's powerful low strike seven minutes into the game, but after Alexander Baumjohann levelled they looked the more likely team to grab a winning goal.

Their fans celebrated at the final whistle as though they had won, and coach Markus Babbel felt happy with the performance.

"They [the fans] have been through a lot this season," he said. "I think today they deserved a performance and I am very happy that the boys could bring a performance today."

Adam le Fondre forced a turnover which started the move that put the Sky Blues in front.

Anthony Caceres then burst through the middle and picked out skipper Brosque, who fired home his sixth goal against Wanderers from just outside the area.

Wanderers forward Mitchell Duke had two chances to level midway through the half, with keeper Andrew Redmayne saving his first effort and Duke then spurning another from a Baumjohann free kick.

A foul by Brandon O'Neill on Roly Bonevacia gave Wanderers the chance to equalise on 57 minutes.

Baumjohann struck his free kick from just outside the box low and hard and saw the ball deflect past Redmayne for Western Sydney's first goal against their rivals in four games.

The home side were unlucky to see Oriol Riera's header rebound off the woodwork, and late on substitute Abraham Majok beat the offside trap to home in on goal but missed from close range with only Redmayne to beat.

The Sky Blues are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League Grand Final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

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Reds up to fourth after stalemate

Adelaide United earned a point from a goalless draw away to Melbourne City that lifted them into the A-League top four.

The Reds moved a point clear of Wellington Phoenix with just two rounds left of the regular season, after an action-packed encounter at AAMI Park.

Both keepers were in superb form and the woodwork helped preserve the deadlock.

City keeper Eugene Galekovic was called into action first, when he made a save with his feet to deny Craig Goodwin, who had been slipped in by Ben Halloran.

Adelaide were relieved soon after as City midfielder Kearyn Baccus curled in a shot from the edge of the box that ricocheted off the post.

The home side also struck the woodwork before the interval, substitute Nikola Mileusnic cutting inside and seeing his shot deflect off Ritchie De Laet and onto the post.

Galekovic made a double save at the other end to deny United, first stopping a George Blackwood effort and then thwarting Halloran's follow-up effort.

City again came close when Harrison Delbridge's header from inside the six-yard box from a Shayon Harrison set-piece was tipped onto the bar by Reds keeper Paul Izzo.

The frame of the goal was again rattled 15 minutes from time as Jamie Maclaren just failed to squeeze his shot past Izzo from a narrow angle. The keeper got a touch to the attempt to beat him at his near post and diverted it against the upright.

Adelaide will secure a top-four spot and a home final if they win both their remaining matches, though their next game is against defending champions Melbourne Victory on Good Friday.

Meanwhile, Sydney FC are 66/1 to win the Asian Champions League final with Al-Hilal 7/1 and Kashima Antlers priced at 8/1.

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Corica wants repeat display

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica has called for a repeat performance from his side in Saturday's derby, after praising their 3-3 Asian Champions League draw with Shanghai SIPG.

The Sky Blues are up against it in their bid to qualify for the knockout stage of the ACL, having picked up just two points from their first three games.

Three times they took the lead against the Chinese giants, only to be pegged back each time – finally by Elkeson's 89th-minute effort.

They will go into their return fixture in Shanghai later this month bottom of Group H and knowing a defeat would end their hopes of progressing.

Though they were made to pay for individual errors at Jubilee Oval, the overall display left Corica encouraged.

"I think if we play like that against any A-League team we will destroy them," said the coach. "That's what we want, we have improved, we're getting better, we've got players back now and we have good options off the bench."

The Sky Blues need to beat Western Sydney on Saturday to keep alive their faint hopes of winning the A-League Premier's Plate for a third consecutive season.

Leaders Perth, who host Newcastle on Sunday, enter the round with a six-point buffer.

Sydney are unbeaten in their last five A-League derbies and have lost just one of the last 16 league and FFA Cup games against their cross-town rivals in the last five years.

Defender Michael Zullo is set to miss the derby after picking up a hamstring injury during the second half of the Shanghai match.

The Sky Blues are 4/5 to win the game against Western Sydney, who are 3/1, with the draw 3/1.

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Crunch time for Sky Blues

Reza Ghoochannejhad is hoping to get a starting role when Sydney FC bid for a first win in the Asian Champions League against Shanghai SIPG.

The Iranian star has only scored one goal in nine appearances since arriving on a loan deal from Cypriot side APOEL. He's been overlooked for a start by coach Steve Corica in three of the Sky Blues' last four matches.

Sydney FC face a must-win clash with the Chinese side at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday, having picked up just one point from their two games so far.

Ghoochannejhad is confident he can make a goalscoring impact for the team, who have three huge matches in a row.

After taking on Shanghai SIPG, the Sky Blues face Western Sydney in the derby on Saturday knowing anything less than a victory would mean the Glory can wrap up the minor premiership by beating Newcastle the next day.

If the Premier's Plate is still up for grabs after this round, Corica's team will be able to cut the gap on 18th April when they host Perth.

Ghoochannejhad said: "At the end of the day, I just want to play and score goals because that's what I'm here for.

"I'm ready, whenever the coach needs me – whether it's in the Champions League or the A-League, I just want to play and be important for the team. We'll see on Wednesday but I'm very excited, delighted and eager to play."

Reigning Chinese champions Shanghai SIPG boast a star-studded team including captain Hulk, former Chelsea midfielder Oscar and prolific striker Elkeson.

Ghoochannejhad added: "They have big names, of course. But big names don't decide the game – it's a team effort that gets you the win."

Sydney FC are 12/5 to win the A-League Grand Final this season 7/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 7/2 with the draw 3/1.

Thurgate’s first goal in Jets win

Teenager Angus Thurgate claimed his first A-League goal to give Newcastle Jets a 3-2 win over Western Sydney.

The home side ended a two-game losing streak and backed up coach Ernie Merrick's decision to turn to youth for the final four rounds.

With their chances of a Finals Series spot all but gone, Merrick had indicated he would build for the future.

He handed Thurgate his first appearance since round 19 and saw the 19-year-old decide the game when he buried a shot into the top corner with eight minutes left.

He swooped on a loose ball after the Wanderers defence had failed to clear the danger.

It came eight minutes after the visitors had equalised thanks to Keanu Baccus' fierce strike that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Oriol Riera thought he had put the visitors in front in the seventh minute when he slotted home a rebound but was flagged for offside.

Rashid Mahazi put Wanderers ahead just before the interval at McDonald Jones Stadium, heading home past a static defence.

Irish striker Roy O'Donovan, having missed a golden chance in the first half, brought the Jets level on 63 minutes with a powerful shot.

The Jets took the lead soon after with a freakish goal from a corner. Dimitri Petratos curled the ball in and keeper Vedran Janjetovic, caught out at his near post, could only push the ball into the net.

The win completed a first clean sweep for the Jets against Wanderers following a 2-0 triumph in round five and 5-1 rout in round 17.

But Merrick had some consoling words for his opposite number Markus Babbel.

"He is a good coach and when he puts his mark on the team by signing the type of players he wants, and when they move into the new training premises and he gets money for a big marquee player, I think they will do really well," he said. "Hopefully we are up there with them next year."

"We will start building now for next year and we have some good talent out there."

Western Sydney are 7/2 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 7/10 with the draw 3/1.

Wanderers are 16/1 to win 1-0.

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