A superb Alex Baumjohann performance has guided Sydney FC to victory in the annual Australia Day weekend Big Blue at AAMI Park.
The German stood out with assists to Adam Le Fondre and the match’s pantomime villain Kosta Barbarouses either side of half-time before scoring one himself in the 84th minute, to extend Sydney’s lead on-top of the league to 11 points.
Though Baumjohann was forced to watch the last 30 seconds from the tunnel after both he and Leigh Broxham were sent off deep in stoppage time.
The Sky Blues severely punished the Victory in transition, as the home side failed to make the most of its opportunities.
Barbarouses’ first game against the Victory at AAMI Park added plenty of fire to an already heated rivalry, while his All-Whites teammate Marco Rojas watched on from the stands, with the 28-year-old not cleared to play.
The Victory fans did not miss an opportunity to express their discontent towards Barbarouses, creating a cauldron-like atmosphere.
Back in the line-up, Victory skipper Ola Toivonen would have felt a sense of déjà vu when he lined up to take a set-piece 25 yards out in the eighth minute.
The Swedish international was pulled down by Ryan McGowan in the seventh minute and the home fans immediately shot up – remembering what he did from this position a year ago.
Having conceded from this scenario last year, Andrew Redmayne was not going to let it happen again – making a comfortable save to deny Toivonen’s attempt headed for top-right corner.
Redmayne was busy early warding off another two attempts on target in the first 15 minutes – the first a low Migjen Basha strike in the 10th minute, before catching Andrew Nabbout’s left footed attempt three minutes later.
Young gun Joel King sought to spark the Sky Blues by connecting with Adam Le Fondre with a swift ball into the box, but the Englishmen was unable to hit the target with his attempt brushing across goal in the 14th minute.
Nabbout brought the home crowd to life with a slick nutmeg on the right-wing, before putting a low cross into a congested penalty area which fell to Robbie Kruse – whose attempt was cleared off the line by Rhyan Grant in the 20th minute.
With a goal the only thing missing from the first half, up stepped Le Fondre.
The former Reading forward opened the scoring with his 14th goal of the season, converting an Alex Baumjohann ball across the six-yard box in the 27th minute before celebrating with a large contingent of travelling fans.
Luke Brattan then nearly doubled Sydney’s lead seven minutes later when his long-ranged out-swinging attempt from a set-piece forced Lawrence Thomas into a low save.
Thomas was then forced to come to his side’s rescue in the 42nd minute after a Barbarouses attempt deflected off Leigh Broxham into the path of Milos Ninkovic, whose venomous strike was tremendously tipped over the bar by the Victory custodian.
At the other end Victory fans were left frustrated as Kruse was unable to finish off a blistering run from livewire Elvis Kamsoba, with the Socceroo’s left-footed attempt on the cusp of half-time failing to trouble Redmayne.
The Victory fired the first shot almost immediately after the break, with Kruse delivering a ball to an unmarked Toivonen at the back post who should equalised, with his header sailing over the open goal.
The Swedish international was left ruing this opportunity, with Kosta Barbarouses adding salt to the wounds of his former club by doubling Sydney’s lead in the 53rd minute.
Breaking on the counter, the Sky Blues punished Victory in transition with Le Fondre combining with Baumjohann whose ball into a congested six-yard area deflected off several bodies – with Barbarouses getting the last touch in the scramble, resulting in the ball rolling home in front of the Victory active area.
Baumjohann put the result beyond doubt in the 85th minute, capping off an impressive performance by adding the nail in the coffin, finishing off the easiest of chances into an open net after an unselfish assist from Ninkovic inside the area.
But the German’s night was soured by a late sending off for what appeared to be a late, yet contentious, elbow to Broxham which caused a stoppage time brawl.
Broxham was also given his marching orders, after he was issued a second yellow for his involvement in the brawl, as the match came to a chaotic end at AAMI Park.
The win sees Sydney extend its unbeaten run to 11 matches ahead of next Friday’s home match against the Brisbane Roar, while Victory’s run does not get any easier as they travel West to face the Perth Glory.
Melbourne Victory 0
Sydney FC 3 (Le Fondre 27’, Barbarouses 53’, Baumjohann)
Red Cards: Baumjohann 93′, Broxham 93′
Lawrence Thomas (GK), Storm Roux, Leigh Broxham, Andrew Nabbout, Robbie Kruse, Ola Toivonen (Brandon Lauton 73’), Elvis Kamsoba (Josh Hope 84′), Migjen Basha, Ben Carrigan, Adama Traore, Anthony Lesiotis (Kenny Athiu 73’)
Brendan White, Jakob Poulsen, Jay Barnett
Andrew Redmayne (GK), Alex Wilkinson, Alex Baumjohann, Ryan McGowan, Paulo Retre (Anthony Caceres 73’), Adam Le Fondre, Milos Ninkovic (Harry Van Der Saag 89′), Kosta Barbarouses (Luke Ivanovic 80′), Joel King, Rhyan Grant, Luke Brattan
Adam Pavlesic (GK), Patrick Flottman,