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City, Sydney FC A-League title favourites

The words of young cancer survivor inspired Sydney FC to their thumping A-League derby triumph.
The words of young cancer survivor inspired Sydney FC to their thumping A-League derby triumph.
Photo Source: AAP

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The A-League has its early title favourites, now the long wait is on for a blockbuster round 10 clash when Melbourne City and Sydney FC meet to decide whose case is stronger.

No other side has neared the class and utter ruthlessness displayed by the two glamour clubs in the opening two rounds.

Sydney's back-to-back 4-0 floggings of Western Sydney and Central Coast have them at the top of the table on goal difference from second-placed City, whose 4-1 Melbourne derby whitewash has to be seen to be believed in much the same fashion as Tim Cahill's preposterous goal.

There was only a slim possibility that Cahill, the figurehead of Football Federation Australia's marketing campaign, could match the enormous expectations surrounding his long-awaited debut in the league.

That the Socceroos' all-time leading scorer exceeded them has already gone along way toward paying for the mega-money investment, the 36-year-old describing his audacious 35m half-volley as being "up there" with the best goals of his career.

It sets up the season's first clash between Sydney FC and Melbourne City, at ANZ Stadium on Friday, December 9, as a mouth-watering encounter, though both sides have been keen to keep a lid on expectations.

City midfielder and man of the match Luke Brattan agreed with coach John van `t Schip's assessment that "championships are not won in the first two games".

Yet he was not surprised at the way his team ripped crosstown rivals Melbourne Victory to shred in a performance coach Kevin Muscat labelled an "embarrassment".

"If you look at our squad and the pre-season we've had, we're very confident in ourselves," said Brattan, who scored City's third goal.

"We've got lots of talented players, we're extremely fit and I think that showed."

The Sky Blues were up against lesser opposition in the battling Mariners, yet the ease with which Graham Arnold's men disposed of them suggested they could comfortably lift several more notches when required.

"I don't think it was our best performance, but to still win pretty comfortably when you're not playing your best was a good sign," right-back Rhyan Grant said.

"It's early doors but we can be pretty happy with our start to the season."

Paul Okon's reinvented Mariners dominated possession but spent most of it dallying inside their own half, a smattering of schoolboys errors soon leading to self-destruction.

Last season's wooden-spooners have just a point to show for their first two games, but there is promise that more improvement will come as the team familiarise themselves with Okon's fluid game philosophy.

The Wanderers, humiliated by their record Sydney derby drubbing, picked themselves off the floor to beat reigning champions Adelaide United in Friday night's grand-final rematch.

Brendon Santalab came off the bench to bag a brace, including an injury-time winner minutes after laying a crunching challenge on Reds midfielder James Holland for which the super-sub was lucky not to be sent off.

Newcastle stunned perennial powerhouse Brisbane 4-0 on Sunday to climb to third on the table, before Perth dismantled Wellington at home 2-0.

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