Sydney FC coach Frank Farina is counting on Sasa Ognenovski’s desire for a World Cup spot to help lift Sydney’s shaky defence.
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina called him a “scary beast” but Socceroos defender Sasa Ognenovski helped end the side’s nightmare week with a desperately-needed victory on Saturday.
And now, Farina is counting on Ognenovski’s desire for a World Cup spot to help lift Sydney’s shaky defence after the veteran centre-back made an impressive debut for the Sky Blues in the embattled club’s 2-1 win over Perth.
With fans losing faith and fractures appearing in the team, no side was under more pressure to win this week than the Sky Blues but, if anything, that seemed to galvanise them.
The fans had their say again at Allianz Stadium, but this week demanding action rather than calling for the heads of the club’s leaders.
And while club management will meet fans in another members forum on Tuesday, the players went some way to pacifying them with a victory.
Ognenovski added some much-needed steel in the back-line and was a vocal presence for the entire match.
After being an integral member of the Socceroos side throughout their World Cup qualifying campaign, Ognenovski was overlooked in coach Ange Postecoglou’s first squad in November.
Postecoglou is due to name his side in coming weeks to take on Ecuador in London next month and the 34-year-old defender is eyeing a recall.
Ognenovski has not played since being released by Qatari club Umm Salal in December but Farina, who coached him at Brisbane Roar, was certain he’d be able to slot straight in and felt he would be a key figure as the Sky Blues attempted to mount a late-season charge for the finals.
“He adds extra leadership, extra experience and he gives us extra depth,” Farina said.
“I’ve worked with Sasa before and he’s a beast of a man, he’s scary big fella and he’s a good defender.
“He’s a real pro on the field and off the field. That was his first game in a while and it shows he looks after himself.
“He’s got a goal, he wants to make the World Cup squad, so I think he’ll just get better.”
Farina also reserved praise for Terry Antonis who, in his first match of the season following a long injury layoff, scored Sydney’s second goal while proving he hadn’t lost any of his deft touch on the ball with a strong showing in midfield.
It was by no means a vastly improved Sydney on Saturday but it certainly was a more positive-looking, composed side who managed to overcome the intense pressure to post a critical victory.
“The pressure the team was under this week, it’s a bit much to just expect that they’re just going to come out there and play like world champions,” he said.
“I think they held their shape well and their structure and made it very difficult for Perth.”