An Adam Le Fondre hat-trick helped strengthen Sydney FC’s bid for a place in the Men’s A-League final in a 5-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners.
Veteran striker Le Fondre, who had scored just three times this season heading into Saturday night’s game, has rediscovered the touch that made him one of the competition’s most prolific finishers during his time in Australia .
The Englishman was joined on the scoresheet by Anthony Caceres and Bobo as the Sky Blues moved up to fourth in the table with a resounding win at Gosford Stadium.
The win was a big boost for Steve Corica’s men as they prepare to host fifth-placed Adelaide on Tuesday before starting their Asian Champions League campaign later next week.
“It was very important for us,” Corica said of his striker’s hat-trick, who has been battling an injury this year.
“That’s what we were missing, right? Goals.
“It’s good for his confidence. I’m very proud of them all tonight with a clean sheet.”
After a tense opening half hour, Sydney scored their first goal when full-back Rhyan Grant sent a delivery into the box.
Trent Buhagiar was offside but he held his run and his strike partner Le Fondre took a throw-in before diving deep into the Mariners penalty area and past Mark Birighitti.
The 35-year-old had clearly gotten a stick for his seniority and ran up to the Mariners fans and mimed as if to indicate he was limping with a walking stick.
Beni N’Kololo and Jason Cummings fired warning shots but the Mariners were left empty on either side of the break.
It was to their detriment because Sydney struck quickly when Grant again made a nice break down the right and Caceres ran between Mariners centre-back Dan Hall and sent the ball past Birighitti into the back of the net.
N’Kololo again tested Sydney goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle but the Mariners’ inability to convert chances cost them dearly when Buhagiar broke on the counter in the 57th minute.
Popping up on the right, Buhagiar delivered from the edge of the box and Le Fondre escaped the attentions of Hall to strike the ball with his first touch and send the traveling Sydney fans into delight.
Barely two minutes had passed before Sydney cut off the Mariners on the opposite flank and after Buhagiar and Caceres combined, Le Fondre completed his hat-trick from the edge of the box.
The veteran striker was given a well-deserved early mark by Corica with Bobo’s substitution scoring in extra time to wrap up the rout.
“We just didn’t start tonight, we were seven or eight late,” Mariners boss Nick Montgomery said. “I could give you excuses but I won’t.
“We weren’t good enough and they were better than us.”