Sydney FC 'deserved' record fifth title - coach

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A-League champions Sydney FC were deserving winners of their record fifth title having had the best attack and defence in the competition, coach Steve Corica said on Monday.

Sydney, who claimed the Premiers Plate for finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season, beat Melbourne City 1-0 on Sunday in the Grand Final decider to close a marathon season hit by COVID-19.

“It’s been different circumstances with COVID-19 and everything ... But to finish it off the way they did, it’s a testament to the players,” Corica told reporters at Sydney harbour on Monday.

“I’m just really so proud of them all. We had the best defence, the best attack, so overall they deserve both trophies.”

Sydney won their third championship in four seasons and became only the second team to claim back-to-back titles following Brisbane Roar’s 2010/11 and 2011/12 triumphs.

The A-League season was halted in March due to COVID-19 but Corica’s side were well placed when the competition resumed in July in biosecure hubs in Queensland and New South Wales states.

All of the playoffs and most of the regular season matches after the restart were held in the Sky Blues’ home city.

Grand Final rivals City, however, had to spend nearly two months away from home due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne.

Sydney captain Alex Wilkinson said some of his team mates had made “huge sacrifices”, including defender Ryan McGowan, who left his baby daughter Millie in Scotland two weeks after she was born to rejoin the team in its run to the playoffs.

“Gows (McGowan) has done it tough over the last 10 weeks,” said Wilkinson.

“Obviously he had to come out here and quarantine and spend the last eight or nine weeks in a hotel by himself.

“I guess winning two trophies alleviates that a little bit for him.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford