An early second half triple-substitution changed the complexion of a sweaty game at Kogarah Oval on Saturday evening as Sydney FC toiled in the sticky heat to overcome a stubborn Newcastle Jets.
The evening started early at 2.30pm, picking up Michelle in West Ryde and encountering some heavy traffic down King Georges Road. It was almost an hour later that we were parked up (in the members car park – special privileges!) and headed into the Leagues Club for a feed and a meet up with the rest of the gang. It was damn hot, the sort of heat that usually turns into a storm by early evening. Early score predictions all involved a Sydney win, but not a clean sheet.
Aurelia’s fascination with the chants and the vibe of the active support saw us sit close to, but not in, the Cove. The beaming sun saw our posse squash further and further upwards to get in the shade at the back.
The visiting Jets had obviously won the toin coss and changed ends, Sydney FC shooting towards the Cove in the first half. Luke Ivanovic was handed a start after a lively performance midweek, and he was straight into the action, winning a sprint on to a through ball from Kosta Barbarouses to get in front of his man and bear down on goal. Alas, he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and the effort went tamely wide. The decision not to risk Milos Ninkovic started to look a risk itself. Barbarouses shinned one wide when well placed and a series of dangerous corners led to nothing. The Jets looked dangerous on the break down the left and had more than one chance from close range to test Andrew Redmayne, but wasted their advanced positions.
It was though a shock when Sydney FC conceded. An aimless through ball was easily fielded and knocked back to Redders. His distribution though was baffling, a ball straight to the feet of the Luka Prso who finished unchallenged past the faltering shot-stopper. Sydney then laid siege on the Jets goal, Luke Brattan blazed over from a free-kick but the home side never looked like scoring. A goal down then at half time, not a situation to instil confidence in the Sky Blue fans, but not entirely a surprise.
A training ground corner routine from Sydney FC ended with a shot that sailed about fifteen metres over the bar – the second half had just started and it was starting to feel like one of those days. Cue a managerial masterstroke from Steve Corica. Milos Ninkovic, Bobo and Paddy Wood thrust into the action. It wasn’t long before the home side equalised, a surge from Wood teeing up Ninko to pass the ball into the net past the static visiting goalkeeper. It looked too easy, the keeper was claiming interference from Bobo, but if there was a VAR check, it was waved away. Everything to play for now.
Redders gave everyone kittens again, when letting a through ball run across him with the attacker closing in, but he maintained a cool head and nonchalently dived on the ball to sighs of relief. The Cove by now sensed a turnaround, but the clear chance wouldn’t come. Ninkovic was outstanding, the newly arrived Harry Van der Saag looked lively, but it was from the most unlikely source that Sydney took the lead. A looping corner found Alex Wilkinson well placed to out-jump his marker and plant a header into the ground. It looped up over the keeper and in slow motion was headed into the net on the line by the last defender who couldn’t reach it to prevent the goal. It took a moment for the goal to register up our end, but the celebrations were wild. Beer was flying everywhere.
The rest of the game was a procession, Sydney looking for more, Jets looking unlikely despite winning a corner deep into injury time. The whistle was greeted with raucous dancing from the home end, the Cove already voicing their disapproval of Melbourne Victory ahead of the big blue next weekend.
The crowd emptied out quickly and we ended up hanging outside the main gate A while the players and staff congregated and made their way home. We bumped into Ali Abbas and heaped praise on him for his former Sydney days, Liridon Krasniqi was receiving lots of love.
There were lots of smiles for Ninko, Wilko and Bobo, and we got a snap with Ryan McGowan along the way, who offloaded his baby to pose for the photo.
It was great to see Newcastle’s no. 12 Todd Blackwell, and also bump in to the newly crowned queen of Sydney FC, Christine in her new number 21 shirt presented by the club on Wednesday night.
We passed up a celebration evening at the Kogarah to get back in time for a day of football on Sunday, rolling into home around 9pm. A thoroughly satisfying day, despite being sizzled in the sun for the first half. Sydney FC were fortunate to come away with the win, but they had played their cards right and turned the game with a positive triple substitution. Bravo! Forza Sydney FC!