Sydney FC has new silverware for the first time since last year with the lifting of the Beyond Blue Cup at a low key ceremony watched by a hundred fans at Kogarah last night. Alex Wilkinson didn’t even see the need to hoist the trophy high as the Sky Blues came up with the goods yet again against a Melbourne Victory side who created enough but couldn’t score.
This Wednesday night fixture posed its usual raft of logistical questions. It seems ages since we last had a home game, and we were determined to make it to this one. With school done and work taking a back seat, a 4.15pm start made sense to avoid the worst of the traffic and get to Kogarah at a reasonable time. Over an hour later, we were parked up and straight into our home, the Kogarah Club, for a pre-match feed. No room at the inn in the bistro, unusually busy for a weekday night, so the finest Yum Cha was the option, Michael and Michelle arriving soon after as deep fried ice-cream was finished and we contemplated just how late we could leave to make it in time for kick off.
The streets were deserted around the stadium, definitely not a big crowd expected for a second home game in succession against the woeful Victory, but the familiarity of walking through the gate and into the stadium under lights still gave the same buzz and we switched straight into game mode as we made our way up next to the Cove. The players came out to a fanfare, and the game kicked off, Steve and Bruno swelling our numbers and Sydney were straight on the front foot.
It didn’t take long for Sydney to take the lead, a corner seeing Adam Le Fondre stoop to head goalward, the keeper saving and Bobo lurking to prod the ball into the empty net. It was up the far end and there was muted celebration, not sure whether it was offside, and the players didn’t seem too fussed either. Still, one goal to the good early on, just like the last time, and surely we’d go on to put the Victorians to the sword. Of course that never happens.
Rudy Gestede leapt for an athletic header soon after, the ball whistling past, if not clipping the post, there was a shot from the edge of the six yard box that flashed past the corner of post and bar and the white-tipped winger on the left Ben Folami was getting a lot of space. As has been their problem all season though, the shots were off target or blocked, and their enterprise came to nothing. Luke Brattan picked up an early booking for nothing, Le Fondre was looking lively, and Bobo headed wide when it looked like a simple chance from our distant view. A cross from the right was glanced goalwards by Rhyan Grant, but just past the post, and Sydney FC couldn’t find their way through. The half ended after an injury to a Victory player, the whistle not met with any emotion at all by the fans in what was a very low attendance.
Into the second half and Sydney camped in the Victory third. The pattern that we have been used to all season of Sydney working their way neatly up to the penalty area and then trying to force their way through the defence with trickery as opposed to pace and direct power was evident, too often a good move ending with a limp cross or with the whole Victory team getting behind the ball. Bobo fired wide when well placed, Kosta Barbarouses had a shot deflected wide when well placed and the Victory keeper did well to push a shot wide as the Sky Blues kept the pressure on.
There were nervous moments at the other end too, Redders making some good saves, before Sydney got their second. The subs had started, Paddy Wood on, and it was his direct run and shot that got the Cove roaring, a great save from the keeper turning this one wide. Milos Ninkovic then danced up to the edge of the area and slipped in Kosta, who took a touch and blasted the ball straight at the keeper, who luckily didn’t have time to move his arms and the ball flashed into the net. The screw was being turned now, and for the last ten minutes we had a host of strikers trying to improve their tally for the season. Despite a much livelier and mobile strike force on the field at the end, 2-0 was how it ended.
The goal posts were quickly dismantled, the majority of fans left the stadium into the night, while the Cove waited patiently for Alex Wilkinson to lift the Beyond Blue Cup and venture across to the home end to salute the hardcore supporters. Lots of fun chanting about Victory’s position in the League and about what has to happen on Sunday in the derby, before Bohemian Rhapsody marked the end of the occasion.
Out into the deserted streets we went, stopping to inspect the goalposts that were leaning against the fence, back to the car and home by 10pm, an efficient end to a midweek matchday that whetted the appetite for Sunday’s final ‘home’ game of the regular season at the SCG. In truth, the game was nowhere near as exciting as we have come to expect from the A League, Sydney FC could and should have been able to knock a lot more goals in against a weak and fearful opposition, and the crowd could not have been much over 3,000 despite what the figures say. This was one for the dedicated Sydney FC fan, but we were there. Forza Sydney FC!
See you all on Sunday.