Melbourne striker Jamie Maclaren moved clear at the top of the scoring chart after his goal – and another by Craig Noone – clinched the three points that lifted City back into second spot.
Their second-half goals were rich reward for consistent pressure which prevented Sydney from creating anything of substance from open play while committing two defensive errors previously rare for the Sky Blues.
“The two goals were our fault,” Corica said. “It’s not that they did something special, they were our mistakes. We aren’t moving the ball quick enough, we are doing things that we shouldn’t be. We aren’t playing to our structure at times which I need to fix.”
In the absence of a decent performer on the ball, Sydney’s best was their gloveman. Andrew Redmayne was first called into action in the 13th minute, reacting well to block a Maclaren shot at his near post before showing his reflexes three minutes later, tipping Noone’s dipping shot over the bar.
His best came midway through the first half. Seemingly wrong-footed and off-balance, Redmayne stood firm to block a long-range shot from Frenchman Florin Berenguer getting just enough contact to deflect it narrowly wide of the goal.
Redmayne drew all the plaudits from his teammates during the break, but a half-time heat map didn’t show so much as a speck of red inside the City box, leaving Corica wanting his attacking players to match the effort of their goalkeeper.
That didn’t transpire after the restart. Instead, a mix-up between Redmayne and one of his defensive partners would gift City the opener just before the hour mark. Deployed in a less familiar role of right-back, Paulo Retre misread the flight of a long ball, leaving Redmayne out of position and allowing Noone to slip into the box and calmly slot into a half-open goal to give City the lead.
The Sky Blues had their chance for an immediate reply when Adam Le Fondre’s clever cross found Kosta Barbarouses unmarked at the far post. However, the New Zealand international slipped at a crucial moment.
The league’s top-scorer made them rue that miss minutes later. Maclaren surged into the box, withstood a challenge from Socceroos teammate Ryan McGowan and calmly chipped the ball into the far corner of the net with the outside of his boot to make it 2-0.
A hopeful shot from substitute Trent Buhagiar was the closest Sydney came to clawing their way back into the contest. Not even a flurry of late changes could break down a disciplined City defence that took the gloss off Sydney’s premiership celebrations and raised serious questions over their title credentials.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.