Making it all the more impressive, Sydney were without midfield dynamo Brandon O’Neill, who was rested due to a sore knee, and left-back Michael Zullo, who had reported calf tightness. Steve Corica’s men didn’t miss a beat.
“The first half set the standard,” Corica said. “They played some very good football … it was a joy to watch. It’s improving. It’s getting better. But there’s still improvement [to come].
“We’re pleased with where we are at the moment, it’s been a good start, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Brisbane, on the other hand, were hugely disappointing. Down 3-0 at the break, coach Robbie Fowler made two changes at half-time and had emptied his bench by the hour mark in a desperate bid to spark his low-energy team, but there was no holding back the Sky Blue tide.
Fowler was at a loss to explain why his side were so poor. “We did everything right in the week leading up to the game. They have got quality, and quality players hurt you. We got done by good play,” he said.
“We told the players what to expect, but they were just probably not at the races. [The first] 45 minutes wasn’t acceptable, we know that. It’s certainly just one of those nights where nothing seemed to come off. It’s a real wake-up call for us.”
On paper, Sydney FC have one of the best front fours in the league in Le Fondre, Barbarouses, Baumjohann and Ninkovic. This match was a realisation of what they can do when they are all in sync.
It felt like their first three goals came from the same playbook – three smart, incisive passes from deep each triggering a rapid raid down the right before a cutback to the middle for a simple conversion.
Le Fondre opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a move kicked off by Ninkovic, who unleashed Barbarouses with a clever through ball. Barbarouses’s attempt at squaring it only went as far as Macaulay Gillesphey, but the deflection wrong-footed Roar skipper Tom Aldred and sat perfectly for Le Fondre, who pounced.
It was 2-0 midway through the half when Barbarouses was the recipient of another sumptuous pass, this time from Baumjohann. Again Barbarouses turned inward and swept the ball across the box for Ninkovic.
Three minutes from the break came the best goal of the lot. Rhyan Grant was the instigator with another long ball from the back for Barbarouses, who looked around for Le Fondre and rolled it across for him.
The Englishman took full advantage with a remarkable finish, deftly curling the ball past a helpless Jamie Young into the top-left corner.
Brisbane stemmed the bleeding for most of the second half, but not all of it. Trent Buhagiar had been on the field for only a few seconds when he provided Sydney’s fourth goal in the 86th minute, tucking away a cross from Grant.
Buhagiar turned provider three minutes later, sending a ball from the right flank to the back post where Le Fondre headed home to complete his hat-trick.
Deep in added time, the Roar nabbed a consolation from the penalty spot after substitute Ryan Teague took down Stefan Mauk with a clumsy challenge. Roy O’Donovan put the spot kick away but it did little to mask the huge problems facing Fowler.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.