It was one of the most exciting and enjoyable Derbies so far, although frustrating. The final result was 2-2. We take a look at the action on and off the pitch, in this review of the experience as much as the football.
The time honoured tradition of the march, now limited to special events such as the Derby since our move away from Parramatta. This march had something special about it though. We were huge in number and we were active and loud the whole way through. This was helped a lot by the Police realising that it is not a smart idea to have thousands of people try to cross busy roads and be funnelled into narrow footpaths like regular pedestrians. The roads were closed for us and we marched shoulder to shoulder, stretching as far back as I could see. It only took them over half a decade but they figured it out in the end, God bless.
It was made even more special by the fact that Jerrad Tyson was marching with us, the same as just any other fan; bringing back memories and ‘the feels’ of when he lead the RBB during the ACL finals. It was truly a great sight and great occasion. Even better though was the coming together of the RBB (and main march) with WST just before we approached the stadium. Not only did we each do a call and respond Who Do We Sing For? but we then all proceeded to march together as one, passed the stadium and to the active entrance at the SCG. Another example of moving beyond gestures and actually working together as one in support of the club we all love. This was truly a march for the ages and I’m sorry if you missed it to take the good seats.
Arriving and Pre-game
Well after going through the usual slow and ridiculous process of getting through the ticket barriers in a massive queue 10 mins before kickoff, we then went through airport security checks, including walk-through scanners, only for me to realise I had forgotten my Western Sydney passport. “Err uh it’s ok mate, you look efnik enough, I believe you” said the Eastern Sydney Border Security Officer.
Finally into the ground we found our seats, by which of course I mean seats not taken, anyone in Active looking for your allocation… I have no words… other than to quote Nathan from Superwog “It’s Not An Airplane!!” From then, as the bays filled up and the players got ready to come out, the excitement grew. Everyone seemed to be having a good time already. Especially the good ol’ Aussie battler in the bay next to us who had clearly managed to convince the 17 year old at the bar to forgo his responsible service of alcohol duties and tank him up within 5 mins of arriving. More on that ‘Lege’ later.
Then Sydney FC fans did something that can only be described as cringe worthy. Clearly jealous that Melbourne City are taking their title of most plastic, they then put up a direction on the big screen to hold up their scarves before beginning to chant the words appearing on the screen like a poorly timed karaoke machine from Top Dollar (I’m still waiting for the applause cue at this point). Even with the ground directions it wasn’t great. We let them go for a few lines and then, with no prompting other than a drum beat and 1 word from JP on the megaphone, we erupted. Not just the active bay, but the packed side stand too. Singing Western Sydney ole ole ole and clapping. The noise was not only drowning out the plastic display across the stadium but was almost deafening and the perfect chant for the occasion. This set the scene for the battle in the stands for the rest of the match, though it was a no contest win to the away fans (even at 2-2 when we went silent in those moments during the WEST chant we still could not hear the Cove).
Battle of styles
From a tactical perspective, especially for a neutral, it was a very interesting game. Sydney played a compact style looking to strangle midfield and give us no time on the ball. We attempted to get around this (literally) by exploiting the space on the wings. Risdon and Llorente had great success with this, on many occasions getting the ball in space and starting an attack deep into Sydney’s territory. It was 1 of these runs by Risdon early on which resulted in the 1st goal. Risdon sent in a great cross which Riera got to with a beautiful looping header, floating into the top corner of the goals to open the scoring in the opening 3 mins. But the fun didn’t stop there.
Hamill the Hero
At the half hour mark, following an intense battle all over the pitch, the Wanderers fans were relieved and surprised when they finally got a correct call from poor referee Gillet. The free kick was taken by Cejudo, who placed a beautiful ball dangerously into the area. On the end of it and sending it into the back of the net, the least expected hero.When we saw it go in we all went crazy. Dancing, hugging, going mental basically. In the calm we turned to the screen to see the replay. It was only then I saw his face. I honestly thought I must be seeing it wrong but there he was.
Brendan Hamill. No, seriously. Some men are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them. Hamill headed home in front of the cove to make it 2-0. It is an amazing achievement for him, someone who has copped a lot but has responded with a great start to the season and now a goal to go down in the Derby history books. I can’t describe it any better than our friend’s at Sydney is Red and Black, on Facebook:
Our 12th man
As I said earlier, the atmosphere was amazing and the Wanderers fans out sung their Eastern rivals throughout the match. FC fans only being heard when they scored. Everyone was active for most of the match. Even the guy that gave real meaning to the term legless, comically falling a number of times,breaking his seat but getting back up and chanting each time. We even helped him up and handed him his sunglasses and hat, to which he responded “where’s my hat!?” When he realised it was in his hand, he kept right on going. We truly lived up to the hype from Hamill during the week and made it seem like it was our home game (yet again).
Sydney’s 12th & 13th man
With the Sydney crowd not performing, ESFC needed some extra help from elsewhere. Gillet was happy to help out. Now I know, I know, don’t blame the refs and all that. But this was so obvious throughout the whole game. Every 50/50 call and even every call where you could barely even make an argument for it went Sydney’s way. None more obvious than the penalty. David Carney comically fell over in a similar style to our mate Legless Larry in the stands. Slowing down and falling into Herd before collapsing to the turf. Normally this would be waved off or even given a yellow for simulation but no.. (and on that note, no Sydney FC player received a yellow card in this match – despite numerous dangerous tackles – like when Brosque showed he has a vendetta against shins). It was blown a penalty and in the justifiable protests, Riera was issued the yellow card. In the stands we were rocking backwards and forwards chanting to ourselves, the VAR is coming, the McVAR is coming… But no saviour came. Remarkably, the poor decision stood and Bobo slotted the penalty home to peg back to 2-1.
In the words of Homer: “Fine, I don’t even know why we have a
bottle VAR… Somebody tell me!!”.
If it is not going to overturn poor decisions like this, I can only conclude it’s there for some McAdvertising dollarydoos.
Everything else that doesn’t neatly fit into a short, sharp heading (comes with free summary – but the summary is also cursed)
The fierce battle continued between Sydney’s dominance in the centre and our threat out wide. Unfortunately, as the game went on, we tired and could not maintain control of the ball. After, Sydney’s counter attack to level at 2-2 we rarely looked like winning. To be fair, the second goal was quality. I could see it unfolding , with those dangerous overlapping runs and quick passes, I turned to my mate and said, f&%$…this is how they score all their goals… Next thing, Bobo had put Brillante in on goal and he fired a rocket across Janjetovic and into the bottom corner. There was no saving it and, as it turns out, there was no recovering. This could possibly be a criticism of inexperienced Foxe, who waited far too long to make substitutions to his tiring side. In particular, Baccus was gassed for a good 20 mins before being subbed and a timely substitution may have stemmed the tide of Sydney’s dominance in midfield.
We were already experiencing PTSD from the last time this happened. The infamous Derby at Allianz where we led 2-0 only to lose 3-2, the game that ended Saba’s career and doomed us to a poor season. We held out for a draw, as you all know, and we went home laughing at the ESFC fans celebrating their draw at home with the assistance of the officials.
In the end, we sit 4th on the ladder and remain undefeated this season. We now look forward to Tuesday night’s FFA Cup semi-final clash against Adelaide United at Campbelltown. If we win that, we do this all again with a Sydney Derby FFA Cup Final. COYW!!!!
Sydney FC 2 (Bobo (P), Brillante) – 2 (Riera, Hamill) Western Sydney Wanderers