After two rounds in the new A-League season, Sydney FC are top of the table after back-to-back 4-0 wins shot them to their best start in seven years.
Consecutive thrashings over cross-town rivals Western Sydney Wanderers and coastal cousins Central Coast Mariners catapulted Sydney FC to their best start to a season since 2009-10. The Sky Blues sit top of the ladder on six points, level with Tim Cahill's Melbourne City.
Cahill grabbed all the headlines with his stunning 35-metre strike against Melbourne Victory in the Melbourne Derby on Saturday night. Earlier, though, Sydney continued to send shockwaves through the league with another pulsating performance.
As both teams jogged onto the pitch, Sydney's famed supporters' army, nicknamed 'The Cove', sent echoes throughout Allianz Stadium: "We are Sydney, the famous Sydney FC; we're from the Harbour city, the boys in blue from Moore Park Road!"
15,082 fans had scythed into the stadium, many of whom occupied the city-end of the ground in The Cove. The small cluster of yellow-clad Mariners fans that were perched at the opposite end of the ground wouldn't have filled a metro-city bus, but were vocal in their support of their travelling heroes.
The match slowly built into a steady momentum with counter-attacks galore. Suddenly, the match came to premature end for Sydney's Alex Wilkinson, with the Socceroos' centre-back suffering an ankle injury following a reckless tackle from Connor Pain. A portly Sydney fan, wearing a Cesc Fabregas Chelsea shirt, angrily gave Pain some food for thought as Wilkinson hobbled off the field.
From there, Sydney took control. The opening goal, after 19 minutes, saw Serbian playmaker Milos Ninkovic pick up a loose ball in the centre before caressing a pass to meet Filip Holosko's clever run. Holosko didn't disappoint, with the Slovakian chipping the ball over former Sydney goalkeeper Ivan Necevski to breathe life into The Cove. Sydney added a second goal twenty minutes later, with Ninkovic chipping a pass to Bobo before the Brazilian striker pressured the Mariners defence into an error to tap home.
There was half-time entertainment aplenty. Several junior teams of 10-year-olds, many sporting identical undercut haircuts and brand new boots, strutted their stuff in front of adoring parents and unsettled match goers. At the food kiosk, loud fans with thick Irish accents bickered over who was to buy the next round. Some words led to a scuffle, with one man throwing tomato sauce into the queue. People quietly realised what had happened once the flashes of fluorescent yellow wearing police caps chased the offender out the nearest exit.
The second half was a bluewash, Sydney ending with 17 shots to the Mariners' 5. The Mariners had some bite in attack, but were limp in defence, conceding a penalty in the 65th minute that Holosko happily tucked away. Shortly after, Mariners defender Mickey Neill took a quick throw-in back to his own goalkeeper. Sadly, for Necevski, it was an early entry into the end-of-season gag reel, with a comedic stumble presenting the ball to Alex Brosque who calmly steered in Sydney's fourth.
Sydney FC have now scored 20 goals without conceding in their last six domestic competition games (including FFA Cup games). If you could pick an early bolter for the title, you'd be mad not to consider the Sky Blues.
One week earlier, in the opening match of the 2016-17 season, Sydney stood still in keen anticipation of the famed cross-town derby. However, Sydney FC's 4-0 thrashing of the Wanderers was a monstrous wake-up call to the rest of the league. In front of an A-League record attendance of 61,880 at ANZ Stadium, the Sky Blues swept aside their cross-town rivals in a season-opening match for the ages.
After a first half of missed chances that included an all-in scuffle, the derby exploded after the break with goals from Holosko, Bobo, Brosque and Brandon O'Neill. The Wanderers attacked valiantly, but despite the massive crowd's Western backing, the red and black couldn't find a way back, with a red card to Wanderers defender Aritz Borda leaving a gaping hole in defence.
Sydney are now poised to win their first three games of the A-League home and away season for the first time in their history. A trip across the ditch to play the Wellington Phoenix sounds like a test, but the Sky Blues are in devastating form.