Any last minute goal conceded to change the result against any Melbourne team is a total shit, but this was a very close game where Sydney FC took the lead in controversial circumstances. A draw was probably the right result after Redders pulled off some amazing saves. A good crowd, a lively Cove and some quality football. That’s all we ask, and it was delivered.
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Bit of a rush this one to get to. Leaving Meadowbank at 4pm after a game and a half of Over 35s football, it was just me and Rails for the journey there. The scare stories about parking and the busier it gets towards kick off prompted a search for a car spot comfortably far away not to get snarled up in amongst it all. It was only 25 minutes from home, so we’d surely get there in time. We parked up next to the canal and walked along the foreshore past Le Montage on what was a sparkling autumn afternoon for this 5pm kick off at the mecca of Leichhardt Oval.
The route is not obvious, and we were thankful for other Sydney FC fans knowing the way, through a fence and up a steep grassy hill through a gap to a spot right in front of what appeared to be the only gate open.
Judging by the crowd at the gate, this would be quite a good turnout. It looked pretty busy when we made it through, the unorganised snake of a queue for one entrance hiding the fact that there were five or six other lines with less people in. Grabbing a beer and a pie to complete the experience, we made our way down to the corner beside the Cove as the sun set behind the big stand.
Kick off would be soon, and there were lots of familiar faces from Kogarah. It wasn’t long before the late-running Michelle made it down laden with beers, and rounded up the troops. Apparently there had been a fight at the gate when she came in, and there was a bit of blood. This though was picture perfect, the sun disappearing did suggest that a jumper might have been a good idea, and the swirling wind that picked up soon after did confirm it.
Sydney were shooting away from the Cove as is tradition in the first half. There was a different hue of sky blue up the other end mixed in with the odd red and white striped affair, confirming at least some presence from Melbourne. Luke Brattan started us off with an audacious chip that had the keeper scrambling to save, the shot stopper appearing to collide with the post when tipping over. City went close with Craig Noone looping in a cross that flicked the bar on its way over, and he was very close to doing it again soon after with a carbon copy. A great save up the other end denied Rhyan Grant after some intricate work down the right. There was a comedy moment from Ryan McGowan soon after, heading the ball back to Andrew Redmayne in the Sydney goal after Redders had committed to the cross. For a split second it looked like an own goal, but the keeper saved to smiles from the defender and gave him a clip to the back of the head for his error. Noone got a cheeky chant involving the word ‘no one’ after diving to win a free kick, but half time came, the scores locked at 0-0.
Redders used all his experience to thwart Jamie Maclaren soon after the break, the initial shot saved, he stood tall and palmed the rebound out of the air to safety. The game was hotting up. A routine take from the City keeper then saw a fumble present Kosta Barbarouses with a clear shot on goal. That was knocked off the line, Bobo shot again but it was blocked, and Milos Ninkovic followed up to hit the post, the ball going through the defender’s legs on the line to safety. A calamity. Just as the fans roared in disbelief, the referee signalled goal, and the celebrations started. It took some viewing of Kayo to know which shot was in, the first one over the line. 1-0 to the boys in blue.
Another brilliant save from Redmayne kept the score at 1-0 as City turned up the heat, former Sydney boy Marco Tilio appeared for the visitors and looked lively. It was deep into stoppage time when sub Luke Ivanovic gifted the ball to Melbourne and they broke well upfield, Tilio brought down in the box, but the ref ignoring the calls for a penalty. The VAR check though saw him wander over the the screen for a squizz and award the penalty to a chorus of boos. It was a bit harsh, Tilio would never have got to the ball, but Alex Wilkinson had taken him down to be fair.
Cue a real bizarre moment, as twenty or so members of the Cove sprinted around to the other end to offer their support to Redders for the penalty. Either that or to barrack City if they missed. Jamie Maclaren didn’t miss. It was 1-1 and that was pretty much the last action of the game.
The final whistle was met with boos, but in truth it was a good game between two good teams looking to hunt down the Mariners for top spot. The crowd filed out and through the gate into the night. A hairy walk down the unlit grassy hill and past Le Montage where the wedding dance could be seen through the curtains, and that was the end of the Leichhardt experience. By the time we got back to the car, there was no traffic whatsoever.
We’ll do it all again next Sunday. Michelle was off home for a bit of down time before heading to the Royal Exhibition to watch the Matildas. Your truly was heading off to slump into bed after a monstrous afternoon on the park in the sun. Look forward to the big game tomorrow though as the Sydney FC Women go in search of silverware. It’s the W-League Grand Final. Thrills and spills! Should be a cracker. See you there.