Star striker Tim Cahill is in doubt for Australia's crucial World Cup qualifier against Honduras next weekend after limping out early in the first half of Melbourne City's 1-0 home defeat against Sydney FC .
The talismanic forward, whose two goals against Syria in the Asian play off last month brought Australia to the brink of qualification for Russia 2018, went down in the 22nd minute of the A-League game after a clash with Sydney defender Jordy Buijs.
The 37-year-old, Australia's record goalscorer, fell to the floor writhing in pain, disappointment etched across his face after twisting his ankle, instantly aware of the ramifications. He stayed prone on the sidelines for a while, then tried to walk the injury off before limping back to the dressing room, where the ankle reportedly "blew up significantly".
Cahill left the ground via a back entrance shortly afterwards. He was due to go to hospital for an MRI and scans, with the results expected on Saturday.
Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou will have to make a quick decision on whether to take Cahill to Central America if the medical staff do not rule him out. But whatever the outcome it is hard to see how a 30-hour flight to Honduras, then the same journey back immediately after the game, will help assist his recovery.
Cahill is due to fly to Honduras on the weekend ahead of the first leg on Friday, November 10 (Saturday, November 11 AEDT) in San Pedro Sula.
City had come into this game with the league's only 100 per cent record, although Sydney were not far behind, having won three and drawn one of its four games.
This, then, always likely to be a tight, tense and competitive clash, a game in which one team was looking to establish itself amongst the top sides, the other looking to nip a would-be challenger's ambition in the bud.
Not surprisingly, the game began with both sides feeling each other out like fighters pushing and shoving to establish their presence.
Chances were at a minimum and both teams looked to keep things tight at the back before trying to manufacture opportunities in the forward third.
Joyce had been forced to make some personnel and tactical changes after Osama Malik's sending off last week in Adelaide and Scott Jamieson's injury.
Captain Michael Jakobsen went to left back, the trimmer, slimmer and far less hirsute Luke Brandan came into midfield, while Cahill started up front with Ross McCormack.
Both teams huffed and puffed for much of the first half, although Sydney put together a good passing move early on which ended when David Carney headed wide from Michael Zullo's cross from the left.
Joyce had to reshuffle his pack after Cahill's 22nd minute departure, with Polish marquee man Marcin Budzinski coming on rather earlier than he would have expected.
But it was Bobo, Sydney's Brazilian striker, who had the next opportunity after he was played through in the 27th minute only to shoot wide.
It took until after the half hour mark for a move of real incision to take place, and it was the hosts who produced it. Brattan played the ball to Jakobsen, who found midfielder Stefan Mauk. The latter then played in Nick Fitzgerald who made space for himself before unleashing a shot which former City goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne did well to parry away to safety.
Sydney got their noses in front just before the hour from a most unlikely source - rightback Luke Wilkshire. Zullo got clear on the left and whipped over a teasing cross that beat the defence, Wilkshire arriving unmarked on the right to half volley home, over Iacopo La Rocca.
Buce Kamau tested Redmayne but Sydney held firm. They now go to the top of the table, while City must absorb the lessons of this loss.