Master beats apprentice as Sydney FC strike late to overcome resilient Nix thanks to Gomes’ star turn
Fabio Gomes came off the bench to secure bragging rights for coach Ufuk Talay over his former club in Sydney FC’s 3-1 A-League Men victory against Wellington.
Reuniting for the first time since he crossed the Tasman earlier this year, Talay guided the Sky Blues through a tactical masterclass to outwit his former assistant turned Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
But the three points almost slipped away after former Sydney attacker Kosta Barbarouses levelled in the 81st minute.
That doubt lasted for just five minutes when, thanks to a clever assist by Gomes, Robert Mak netted to put the hosts ahead again.
Deciding he wasn’t done just yet, Gomes slotted his own in added time to seal the win.
The under siege Nix defence unravelled quickly under pressure, with the normally unconquerable goalkeeper Alex Paulsen bested by Rhyan Grant, while Jaiden Kurcharski fooled the backline as a false nine.
Showing off his quick reflexes with a tasteful right-footed flick across the body, Grant scored from close range on 11 minutes to earn an early ascendancy for the Sky Blues.
Wellington powerhouse Bozhidar Kraev came close to levelling in the 25th but could not beat Socceroos goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne.
Espoused with the ‘never say die’ attitude, the full Phoenix cavalry came charging in the second half.
The prolific attacking trio of Kraev, Barbarouses and Ben Old relentlessly peppered the goal but they were either felled by their own inaccuracy or by the dogged Sydney defence.
Play was momentarily paused in the 54th minute when midfielder Anthony Caceres went down with an ankle injury.
Caceres limped off the ground with Max Burgess replacing him, while Kucharski made way for Patrick Wood.
Unable to recapture the immaculate quality of their first-half performance against their reinvigorated opposition, Talay opted to use the talents of Gomes.
The Brazilian striker was dropped from the starting 11 after a spell with illness earlier in the week, after rediscovering his goal-scoring boots against Western United.
But just as soon as Gomes joined the fray, the home side came crashing down when Barbarouses equalised.
Oskar van Hattum bolted through to tease Redmayne and square for the Kiwi international to simply slot home.
But Sydney responded almost immediately; the Nix party cut short after Mak and Gomes scored.
Wellington could lose the coveted top spot should Melbourne Victory come away with the three points from their Saturday meeting against Adelaide United.