Bo… Bo… Always believe in Bobo… That was the song the that reverberated around the magnificent Sydney Cricket Ground at 5.45pm as the players left the field, the Brazilian having notched the only goal of the game to give the Sky Blues a rare taste of Sydney derby victory.
A busy Sunday culminated in a meeting of Sydney fans at the Captain Cook hotel, just around the corner from Moore Park. While some of the group left to join the early march from the Bat and Ball, the rest of us made use of the spacious surrounds to consume for an extra hour, Wanderers and Sky Blue supporters mingling happily over plenty of beers. The mini-march to the SCG took us past the new Footie Stadium, a glimpse of what we have in store in a couple of years time when we move into our new home. Hopefully it’s something like Bankwest.
On approach, the gates were very busy, most of the people hanging around were policemen, looking menacing, as the Wanderers supporters made their way to their gate. We found the Members wall and found our names, and made our way in with a more thorough than usual bag search, along the length of the big stand to the home end and our spot in the bottom tier. Ticket-meister Michelle had come up trumps with seats at the back, so we could stand, and near the bar and the coveted doughnut stand. The end was buzzing, the Cove were a block away in the upper tier and making a good spectacle of it. Up the other end, the Wanderers fans were quite small in numbers, the 25-minute train journey deemed too far for some into the magical kingdom of the Eastern Suburbs.
Truth be known, the glare of the sun was a right pain, and we were staring right into it for the whole of the first half. I’d brought my hat, but still needed a hand to reveal only a slim view of the field as the autumn sun seemed to hover mockingly behind the antiquated members stands.
The first half was a tough watch. The first ten minutes were scrappy, Sydney shooting towards the Cove, but with the advertising hoardings so close to the field, the lack of view of the goal line made it a strange angle to watch football from, a bit like the women’s game at Newcastle early in the season. The game sprung to life when a duff Sydney corner ended with bodies on the floor and Bobo sweeping the ball into the net, a moment of celebration quite rightly cut short after Rhyan Grant had barged over his defender in the lead up. Wanderers went down the other end and flashed a shot into the side netting through James Troisi on the right, then followed it up with a real bad miss into the side netting on the left, the offside flag would have saved us though. Wanderers looked a little shaky in defence and conceded a couple of needless corners which Sydney couldn’t capitalise on, but it was Wanderers who broke the deadlock, or so it seemed, not far from half time.
A corner from the right wasn’t dealt with and the shot squeezed through a body of Wanderers players. That was my cue to go and get another tray of beers. Luckily when I was at the bar, a huge roar went up and the goal had been disallowed after VAR for offside, players impeding the view of Andrew Redmayne. Harsh, but fair. So back with a fresh stock of brews, and with the scores still level, we could enjoy the remaining moments of the first half in full voice, Anthony Caceres testing the visiting keeper with a low shot, the Cove keeping the songs going.
The sun was down now and the lights came on fully and the stadium looked a real picture. The big stand to our left was all but deserted, apart from the Wanderers pocket at the far end and the corporate boxes around the middle, but the rest of the stadium looked healthy.
Into the second half, Sydney FC took command. Milos Ninkovic was full of verve and trickery, and the Sky Blues seemed to show more desire than the red and blacks. Grant made a great run down the right, beating three, but the attack broke down, Luke Brattan seared in a missile from a free kick which was pushed away by the Wanderers keeper and it seemed like a matter of time before the goal came. Adam Le Fondre to Ninkovic on the left of the box, he clipped the ball in to a crowded six yard box, and Bobo somehow got the header on target and the the net rippled for 1-0. Beer flew everywhere from the Cove, it was a fantastic moment to see the Sydney FC fans enjoying the goal.
No subs had been made until about ten minutes from the end, Sydney brought on Alex Baumjohann to introduce some grit into the middle of the park. Ryan McGowan was adjudged to have tripped Bruce Kamau on the edge of the area, the Wanderers player leaping into the air spectacularly to con the referee. Troisi blazed the free kick over. Redders was caught doing push-ups as the minutes ticked by, as he tried to keep warm. This was Sydney’s day, and the four minutes of injury time was easily managed, fans and players punching the air in unison.
The players came to the Cove to link arms and salute the supporters, there was much joy and merriment in the home end as us Sydney fans realised that they could finally give it back to friends and work colleagues from the other half of the city. This City Is Ours rang out around the artistic patchwork of old and new stands, and it was still early. Some of our group was ready to celebrate, others were ready to get back, school and work on our minds!
Some Harry Potter-esque wizardry from the grounds people saw the lines of the field washed away minutes after the final whistle, the lone sorcerer enduring some hose management issues to completely wash away all traces of this football occasion that had dirtied the not-so-pristine surface of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Bobo was there to celebrate with me, before we left the gang and headed for the light rail. What a great idea that was, trams coming every two minutes and the journey took only a few minutes, even going underground, two stops to Central Station. We arrived as the majority of home fans were coming around the corner after the walk down from the stadium. Back home by 7:30 and into an night of A-League, EPL and Ligue 1, this had been a great day out.
That’s the end of the home games for the regular season. We could be looking at a home game in the semis, although I can’t remember how it all works if we don’t finish first! Thanks to all the great people I’ve had the privilege of sharing this season of Sydney FC supporting with. It’s been a beacon in a difficult Covid era that started with masks and social distancing, and we’ve witnessed quite possibly the best ever A League season. Two more games of the season to go, both away games, hopefully we’ll have at least one more home game to come in the finals. Forza Sydney FC! Thanks to Michael for the cover photo!