Ladder-leader Sydney FC continued its flawless start to the A-League season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Skipper Alex Brosque and midfielder Milos Ninkovic both put away easy chances to cement the Sky Blues’ spot on the top of the table.
The competitive pacesetters have now tallied a maximum 12 points from their season-opening four games and have still yet to concede a goal in the campaign.
Sydney FC became only the third team in A-league history to open the season with four consecutive wins: the other two (Melbourne Victory in 2006-07 and Brisbane in 2011-12) both went on to win the title.
Sydney won despite a virus forcing coach Graham Arnold into making his first change to the line-up all season, inserting Brosque in for a sick David Carney.
“He’s been sick since we got back from Wellington (last week), so he basically only trained yesterday for a half hour and that was it,” Arnold said.
“Ninkovic was sick today as well. We’ve had a bit of a virus go through the team over the last few weeks where players have missed sessions through training.
“If anything, that was a bit of a concern for me, coming into this game. But again, we’ve got the depth and the quality that we can deal with it.”
For the injury-ravaged Jets, the loss in front of 11,873 fans at McDonald Jones Stadium was their first of the year and easily their worst outing of the season.
The defeat for rookie coach Mark Jones was compounded by a knee injury to Ben Kantarovski, who had to be helped from the field late in the game.
The 24-year-old will undergo scans over the next 48 hours, and there were immediate fears for his season, but Jones said it was just “a bit of trouble with his mensicus, it popped back in or whatever and he feels fine”.
The coach believed Kantarovski could even be back for next week’s match against Wellington.
Teenager John Koutroumbis made his A-League debut after coming on for Kantarovski and impressed in his eight-minute stint.
“He’s composed, he’s a good athlete, he reads the game well,” Jones said.
In Saturday’s other match, Brendon Santalab scored Western Sydney’s quickest-ever A-League goal but Tony Popovic’s men were denied a second win of the season, held to a 1-1 A-League draw by Central Coast.
Like last week’s 2-2 draw with Newcastle, the match should have belonged to the Wanderers, but they again let a lead slip through their fingers.
Robbie Cornthwaite’s shocking backpass threw goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne under the bus to gift the Mariners a second-half equaliser.
It came after a rapid-fire start when Santalab, having demonstrated his shrewd capacity for netting late winners off the bench, provided a lesson on what can happen when given a starting spot.
The 34-year-old, elevated to the XI an hour before kick-off in place of Kerem Bulut, was on the scoresheet just 82 seconds in.
An intelligent run down the right allowed Santalab to latch onto a feed by starting debutant Nicolas Martinez and pocket the opener in the left-hand corner.
Central Coast enjoyed its share of good spells, with Connor Pain finding himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper but pushing a potential match-winning goal wide of the net.