Sydney is not red and black

A fantastic afternoon and evening of top-flight Australian football saw Western Sydney Wanderers totally outdone by their fiercest rivals Sydney FC in the W-League. An absolute bomb of a goal from the more prolific of the Ibinis on show steered the Sky Blues to a 3-0 win, and it could have been more. With the big game out of the way, we could enjoy a moment in history as Macarthur FC came up with a goal, a clean sheet and plenty of positives from a slender win against the home side.

Bankwest Stadium is only fifteen minutes down the road, so this was a no-brainer – drive to the game, park in the Leagues Club car park and head straight into the game. There seemed to be quite a few people about in the plaza before the game, a queue at the ticket office, and plenty of people hanging around the Pixar putt putt opposite the main entrance.

After a quick go in the football cage and the football pool table, it was time to get in to the stadium as kick off approached. We were in the away section, so a walk to the other end of the ground and up a flight of stairs into the magical Wanderland. There was very little time between the opening of the gates and the kick off of the game, so any thoughts of grabbing a leisurely beer and checking out this wonderful amphitheatre were replaced by the need to get to our seats and catch the start of the game. No chance to see the warm ups, not a great deal of pre-game action.

A quick count up of the crowd in attendance at kick off, and the numbers were estimated by our non-scientific half-arsed method at between 300 and 1,000. Ten people per section, maybe 80 sections, some of them completely empty. The different shading of the seats at Bankwest Stadium is genius – it actually looks full, even if the cavernous silence gives it away. The Sydney FC fans were in the away corner, and the view, as you will know if you’ve been here, was outstanding.

And so to the on-field action. The game was poised early on, but the chances started to come for the visitors. The wing play was excellent from Sydney FC, both flanks having success, and the ball just seemed to be falling for the sky blues in challenges. After Remy Siemsen clipped the bar instead of shooting low, this started to look like ‘one of those games’, but it was Courtnee Vine who opened the scoring soon after with a lovely finish when released into space on the right side of the penalty area by Siemsen.

One nil at the break, and the game didn’t look like changing much in the second half. It was all Sydney FC with an assured defence and options galore, and the chances came thick and fast. Vine tricked her way into the area right below us and fed a ball just behind Siemsen and Ibini. It was on the hour though that the sky blues got their second, and what a goal – Princess Ibini dropping the shoulder to move inside and blasting a shot into the top right hand corner of the net. An absolute worldie from the popular Sydney FC star. There were more chances with the away team threatening to run riot but they had to wait until late on for Princess to get her second, a superb run to latch on to a deft pass, and a finish without any element of doubt. All smiles for Sydney FC.

Needless to say, we were delighted in the stands. Our attempts to applaud the teams off were hampered by the blaring music starting for the A League warm ups, and the players simply walked over to the bench area to congratulate each other on the win before disappearing down the tunnel. Time for a beer then. There were two catering areas open at the away end, one only open for coffee it seemed, despite having the full array of beers on tap, the other one only selling cans of no one’s favourite beer Iron Jack. Still, they went down well, there’s no denying it. The main event was over, now time for the bonus game, the Macarthur fans filtering in to the away section. Plenty of pristine white shirts and the very neat black away jerseys were on display, with an even mix of families and groups of mates.

It was remarked (not by me I may say) that the men’s game was ‘so much quicker’. Fair point, it was quite a marked difference. But let’s not dwell on that. This game pitted newcomers Macarthur, with a whole side of new signings, some of them from the top drawer, against a Wanderers side full of established characters. Bernie Ibini was out there too with his trademark wrist bands. The away end was vocal. The RBB was conspicuous by its silence, the red and white tape across the home kop giving an air of sterility.

The game was a classic. There was a lot for the crowd to cheer, a nonsense penalty for the Wanderers for a handball finally overturned after a long VAR consultation but it looked like being another entertaining stalemate after a disallowed Macarthur goal for offside midway through the second half. This was an evening of firsts though for the away side, and after their first ever chant ‘Let’s go Macarthur, let’s go’ was thrown out there, the opening goal came. Macarthur were picking their way through the Western Sydney midfield, and won a free-kick on the edge of the area. A fairly poor shot from the kick struck a Macarthur player and wrong-footed the keeper to roll into the net for 1-0. Lots of joy around us in the stands.

Federici in the visitors goal was then made to work, a series of saves denying an equaliser up the far end, and the game ended one-nil to the Bulls despite the white-haired Muller changing the game with his energy. The fans were jubilant. Kids with families were getting photos with the stadium behind them, there were smiles and fist pumps. We were happy to hitch along for the ride. A new A-League franchise is born.

Plenty of love on the way out after the game, coaching supremo Brendon of Hills Football not showing too much distress after a double derby defeat, and Princess socially distant as possible for a selfie with the Sydney crew eager to show their appreciation. Oddly enough, plenty of hate too. As predicted, half of the crowd wouldn’t have known that the women’s game was on, so the sight of four out-of-context Sydney FC shirts walking through the concourse was too much to take for some of the less sober home fans. We just laughed it off though. The temptation was definitely there to sing ‘You’re shit and you know you are.’

A seamless exit from the car park after eventually remembering which floor we were on, and we were home before 10pm, a new record for Michelle! We go again this Saturday. With every day we expect to be locked down further, so we’ll take every opportunity possible to attend football and get our fix. Will Wollongong be declared a no-go zone? Will the game get moved? It’s so dynamic at the moment, anything is possible.

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