Sydney FC’s Foxtel National Youth League squad have claimed the Conference B title after a pulsating 3-2 encounter against the FFA Centre of Excellence on Sunday at Lambert Park.
A brace to Bai Antoniou coupled with a strike to Emmanuel Gonzalez saw the Sky Blues overcome a determined FFA side who made Head Coach Robert Stanton’s men work for the full 90 minutes for the three points.
The game kicked off at breakneck speed as both sides looked to assert an early dominance over the match, and it came the Sky Blues way with Max Burgess and Emmanuel Gonzalez both going close in the opening 15 minutes.
Gonzalez wasn’t to be denied however and he opened the scoring five minutes after his chance, as he was on hand to tap in following a well worked move that saw Daniel Araujo out muscle his defender at the byline before cutting back for the assist.
The goal sparked the FFA into life as they came into the match, pushing numbers high and putting the Sky Blues under pressure.
Kosta Petratos rattled the woodwork just beyond the half hour before the FFA duly equalised as Charlie Devereux expertly curled a free kick up and over the wall and in beyond an outstretched Anthony Bouzanis in goal.
After weathering a wave of pressure the Sky Blues re-took the lead with Bai Antoniou capitalising on an energetic Max Burgess run to fire in on the turn inside the area.
Determined defending from Jacob Tratt and George Timotheou ensured the Sky Blues went in at half time leading 2-1 as they cleared a number of FFA chances in the dying minutes in a frenetic first 45 minutes.
The second half kicked off in much the same fashion as the first, and it was the FFA who were quickest out of the blocks as went in search of an equalising goal.
Chances were at a premium as the match turned into a midfield battle on the hour mark, with heavy challenges from both sides breaking up the play.
The Sky Blues almost doubled their lead with 20 minutes remaining as Charles Lokoli-Ngoy found himself on the end of a well-timed ball from Cristian Gonzalez however he couldn’t steer it in and moments later the FFA levelled.
With the ball breaking forward the Sky Blues could only half clear it to substitute Marc Tokich on the edge of the area, and the forward took one touch before curling an effort over Bouzanis to equalise and ensure a nervous remaining 10 minutes for Sydney FC.
Looking for a third goal to win, the FFA pushed numbers forward leaving themselves exposed at the back, and with five minutes remaining the Sky Blues capitalised to shore up a Grand Final berth.
Max Burgess capitalised on a loose ball to release captain Yianni Spyrakis into the area and as the Sky Blues number 5 saw his effort saved, Bai Antoniou was quick to the follow up to convert and send the home crowd wild.
With two minute of stoppage time on the board Sydney FC sat back and kept the ball and ensured they finished top of the Foxtel National Youth League Conference B on 18 points, setting up a Grand Final clash against Conference A winners Adelaide United.
Sydney FC: 1 Anthony BOUZANIS (gk), 2. George TIMOTHEOU, 5. Yianni SPYRAKIS, 7. Daniel ARAUJO, 8. Max BURGESS (88’ Patrick FLOTTMANN), 9. Bai ANTONIOU, 14. Cristian GONZALEZ, 15. Jacob TRATT, 16. Brendan CURTIS, 17. Christopher ZUVELA (68’ Charles LOKOLI-NOY), 18. Emmanuel GONZALEZ (68’ Aaron AVERY).
Subs not used: 20. Nicholas SORRAS (gk).