On a magical Sunday arvo bathed in sunshine, Sydney FC managed to throw away two points with yet another attacking display devoid of invention at key moments. It was tough to take, the home team taking a commanding 2-0 lead, but never looking comfortable with it. The third goal never came, and they were pegged back by a strong finish by Adelaide United in a 2-2 draw.
The games are getting harder and harder to get to, now that weekend winter football has arrived. As a result, this was a solo journey to the game straight after a sparkling 5-0 win for my West Ryde Rovers Over 35 division 3 team. I was that full kit wanker who only managed to get rid of the shin pads and change to the sky blue home shirt before clambering up the hill behind the main entrance. The Inner West of Sydney put on a beautiful afternoon, boats gliding on the harbour, some sort of exhibition next to Le Montage, even a big budget video being shot under the bridge on the way through. Michelle had her own game in the afternoon and would come on down after that.
The queues to get in, with a few minutes to kick off, were fierce, and it was all hands on deck with membership manager Shane corralling punters in through the gates to get people into Leichhardt Oval on time. Aurelia was already in as part of the ball crew, having left her NPL game in time for the pre-game meet. She wasn’t overly keen to get her photo taken in her Maccas outfit, but I got some anyway.
Having just got in for kick off and grabbed one of those tasty 4 Pines summer brews, the Cove was the venue for the first half, and it felt natural to join in with the singing as the first 45 minutes unfolded.
Sydney were easily the better team, but there were signs of this being yet another one of those games, with Kosta Barbarouses wasting two glorious chances early on. The first one was a volley straight at the keeper, the second one a clear shot that was screwed wide, but cleared away anyway. Adelaide looked dangerous down their left with Craig Goodwin providing their set pieces, although they were pretty ineffectual. The goal did come though, and it was an unusually incisive move, Alex Baumjohann stretching his legs down the right to race onto a pinpoint through ball from Milos Ninkovic, and his cross was easily converted by the inrushing Bobo for 1-0. That was what we should strive for in every forward move. The positive and patient approach play but negative end product is becoming like a broken record this season, but this one was as refreshing as it was impressive.
A move down the visitors right then saw Tomi Juric connect with an acrobatic effort. I was right behind it and it wasn’t far wide of Andrew Redmayne’s post. So, signs of life from the away team, but they too had been wasteful.
Half time gave a touch of Kogarah, the sprinklers coming on to disrupt the half time kick around from the little ones, and there was a very competitive bubble soccer game that kept the fans entertained. The move to the area behind the Cove unearthed Steve and Bruno and a few others, Michelle finding us to enjoy the second half as the sun disappeared.
The second forty-five was still in its infancy when Barbarouses was released clean through by Baumjohann, but again his touch was woeful, the keeper easily blocking him, only to see Bobo stroke the ball calmly home on the rebound for a comfortable 2-0 lead. Baumjohann was again involved to tee up Rhyan Grant for a good chance, the Adelaide keeper making a block to keep out the shot when the third goal was begging. The impressive Baumjohann was puzzlingly replaced by Trent Buhagiar soon after and Sydney went off the boil. Adelaide were threatening up their left, and the gaps were showing. Goodwin tricked his way into the box but fluffed the final pass as Sydney were let off.
A corner soon after though led to the ball being played out left and a low drilled cross was expertly finished by the tall Adelaide central defender Elsey to make it a nervy last fifteen minutes. Again, the threat was down the Adelaide left, and this time a free kick was awarded which Goodwin would normally have taken. Instead he touched the ball for Juric, almost into the path of the referee, and his shot from distance flew past Redders for 2-2. The Cove, who had started a lengthy chant and were reaching its crescendo, seemed to leap to the air in celebration – an ill-timed move that bizarrely added to the goal celebrations.
Having endured Newcastle United throwing away a 2-0 lead the night before, but happily watching them go on to win it, I was in no panic. Still almost 15 minutes to go, with stoppages, we could do it. In the end though, it was definitely Adelaide who looked the better team and finished the game in total command. So much so that when Luke Brattan and Josh King had their pockets picked in midfield as Sydney tried to force their way through the impregnable yellow defence, a ball was launched over the top for the dangerman Goodwin to gallop onto, a one-on-one situation impending. That was until he cut in front of the fast approaching Rhyan Grant and Grant couldn’t help foul him. After a moment of indecision, the ref pulled out the red card and the misery was complete. The free kick ended up hitting the wall and was cleared, so perhaps that was a little like the Suarez handball in the World Cup against Ghana. The end result was no goal.
A chorus of boos rang out around Leichhardt Oval. A disappointing end to what had looked like a routine win. The stadium emptied out quickly. We at least got some applause from Alex Wilkinson and Ryan McGowan before we all went our separate ways, and I was to meet up with Aurelia at the main gate where ball crew champion Ross was making sure everyone had a parent to go with.
Into the pitch black. past the spooky kids roundabout, and down the hill to Le Montage, we retraced my steps from two hours earlier and were back home by 7pm. Lovely afternoon out, good to get into the singing and chanting, great to see a lot of familiar faces, but what a fizzer of a result. We now head to the Central Coast on Saturday without Rhyan Grant. Unless it pours with rain, I’ll have to miss that one as I’ve got a direct clash with game two of the 2021 season in Over 35 division 3. Spewing, as it’s always a good day out with Hawaiian shirts and pool noodles, and this time the Mariners are decent. Good luck lads!