Sydney FC sent an ominous warning to the rest of the A-League on Friday night after showing that not even suffocating defensive tactics are enough to stop them now they have a set-piece specialist in their ranks.
In what is becoming a habit, Adrian Mierzejewski scored a stunning free kick to guide the Sky Blues towards a 3-1 win over Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium, showing how easily Sydney can score even when they've been shut down during open play.
Melbourne City looked to be on course for a rare win against Sydney FC at their home ground as their deep-lying defence and strong press stifled the Sky Blues. That was until Mierzejewski scored his second free kick in as many games to turn the match on its head, landing a morale-sapping blow on Melbourne City.
The Polish international revealed Sydney FC's set-piece takers are ramping up their training to add another route to goal for the Sky Blues as they anticipate more teams will try and "park the bus" in an attempt to beat the rampant Sky Blues.
"It was not our best performance, but we are so dangerous," Mierzejewski said. "We can change the game in very second, with every kick and we did that. In five seconds we won the game."
Alongside Brandon O'Neill and Jordy Buijs, Mierzejewski has joked that free kicks gifted to Sydney FC on the edge of the area may as well be penalties, such is the strength and variation among their dead-ball specialists.
"I am waiting for more free kicks, more chances, and I'm sure I will score more goals," Mierzejewski said. "I am just waiting for chances. It's hard work, I try to work every day, every week for many years. I have self-confidence and I am sure that I will score more goals from free kicks. I am working hard and I try to train with the other players, with Jordy, with Brandon and I hope that it's something extra."
Meanwhile, Sydney FC will be sweating on Monday's match review panel results, which could lead to a hefty suspension for striker Bobo, who appeared to have kicked an opponent off the ball.
The Brazilian striker was caught on camera raking the shin of Melbourne City's Manny Muscat in the second half in the back play, which was reviewed by the video assistant referee, but not acted upon.
Melbourne City were fuming about the inaction of the VAR and the perceived inconsistencies, given Muscat was later sent off by the VAR for elbowing an opponent, which was initially missed by the on-field referee.
However, VAR Strebre Delovski suggested the incident with Bobo was not a case of a clear and obvious error from the officials and ruled the incident fell into the grey area of what the VAR should be intervening on.
"It was definitely reviewed," Delovski told Fox Sports after the match.
"We didn't think it was a serious missed incident. We were determining whether it was violent conduct because it happened off the ball. For us, it was pretty grey whether it was red or yellow. So from our point of view, we've set a very high bar this year with the VAR and from our point of view, that grey area, we shouldn't really be touching. Therefore, we definitely looked at it but we felt that it wasn't a clear, serious mis-incident."