On target: Filip Holosko scores a goal under pressure from Jets defender Nicholas Cowburn. Photo: Mark KolbeIt is the combination that’s taken four months in the making but Milos Ninkovic hopes his partnership with marquee Filip Holosko can lead Sydney FC to another derby success over Western Sydney Wanderers.
Three of Sydney’s last four goals have been created or scored by Holosko or Ninkovic in what is looming as one of the more deadly attacking combinations in the league. The two foreign recruits required time to not only forge an on-field partnership but adjust to new surroundings, different style of football and the most difficult obstacle to overcome – the hard n pitches.
Ninkovic believes his partnership is finally blossoming as the two have developed a unique bond that is punishing oppositions. It wasn’t just Ninkovic’s superb through-ball for Holosko to score Sydney’s first against Newcastle Jets on Saturday night but Holosko’s two assists for the Serbian attacking midfielder to score a brace the week before against Melbourne City that showed how instinctive this strike partnership is becoming.
“Filip is a good guy, very good football player. It’s the first season we play together but I can tell we understand each other. The last game against Melbourne City he gave me two assists now against Newcastle I give him one. At the moment we understand each other much better,” Ninkovic said.
The two players never played alongside one another before but have crossed paths in the UEFA Europa League, when Dynamo Kiev played Holosko’s Besiktas. However their bond is more ideological, according to Ninkovic, as the two value ball retention highly and place a strong emphasis on fluid football.
“Every training session, every game we know each other more. I think we need to continue like this, we need to keep the ball. Not only here but in the world, if you have the ball it’s easier for everything. In , after 14 games I watched many other games and I think it’s key if you keep the ball, if you have more times than the other team,” he said.
It’s a silver lining to the long-term injury for captain Alex Brosque as Ninkovic stepped up to a more creative role deployed as a central attacking midfielder. Since moving into a more traditional creative role in recent weeks, Ninkovic emerged as Sydney’s fulcrum in attack and credits the transition away from the left wing and into the centre of the park for his improved performances.
“When I came here I played on the left side. Many games I played in France was on the left side but I think my position is in the middle. I think because I am playing my position, I feel better,” Ninkovic said. “Last month [coach Graham Arnold] told me he wanted to put me in the middle and I said it was no problem. I think it’s better for me.”
Two goals and an assist in his last two games puts him in red-hot form leading into the Sydney Derby against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night. Ninkovic scored the winner the last time the two clubs met in a match that was a rare spectacle for the former Dynamo Kiev man. The passion from the stands and the tension in the build-up surpasses the biggest rivalry in Ukraine between Dynamo and Shakhtar Donetsk where it’s common for fans to drink together before and after games in a mark of a friendly rivalry.
“When I was in Ukraine you play for Dynamo against Shakhtar, it’s a big derby. You can feel this but fans will go together to drink something, that’s normal in Ukraine. This [Sydney derby] is more similar to the derby in Serbia, Red Star against Partizan. Not the same but you can feel the pressure before the game,” he said.