Sydney FC displayed a gritty side to match their glamour tag as the reigning champions made light of several key absences to see off Brisbane Roar 2-0 and stretch their winning run to five matches going into the A-League finals series.
Kosta Barbarouses had Sydney FC on their way with an early goal and Harry van der Saag doubled the margin in the final seconds of the contest at Moreton Daily Stadium in Brisbane.
The Roar pushed Sydney FC hard throughout the second half but found replacement goalkeeper Tom Heward-Belle in fine shot-stopping form.
The home side looked set to draw level on more than one occasion, but Heward-Belle made several impressive blocks, notably denying Dylan Wenzel-Hall.
Unusually, it was a Sky Blues' performance based more around grit than glamour.
With Rhyan Grant, Ryan McGowan and regular keeper Andrew Redmayne all on Socceroos' World Cup duty in Kuwait, Sydney FC coach Steve Corica said maintaining momentum was important ahead of a week off prior to the elimination final.
"We wanted to finish the season well.The main thing at the moment is to keep winning and keep on this roll we are on," said Corica.
"It wasn't our best performance today by any means. We played well in patches and the boys that came in for our Socceroos players did well.
"We have to improve with the ball which we will, given we have a lot of quality players, and come the semi-final we will be primed."
Notably, goalkeeper Heward-Belle looked like a seasoned veteran in just his second match, earning the praise of Corica.
"Tom Heward-Belle coming in did really well to keep a clean sheet and that is great for his confidence," he said.
Barbarouses set Sydney FC on their way on 16 minutes and Bobo headed against the crossbar but the home side turned the momentum and dominated large chunks of the second half.
Despite seeing their eight-match unbeaten run at home come to an end, Roar coach Warren Moon believes they have plenty of reason for optimism ahead of next weekend's home semi-final.
"Apart from being slow to get going, I felt we pretty much had control of that football match," Moon said.
"We put some young boys in tonight and I'm really pleased with how they performed while obviously disappointed with the result."
It was an 11th match in six weeks for Brisbane and Moon said his side would benefit from the opportunity to fully prepare for the semi-final.
Australian Associated Press