Far from a nuisance fixture that simply gets in the way of the A-League, the round of 32 clash between old soccer Sydney Olympic and new football Sydney FC served up an absolute treat for everyone involved. The hospitality provided by the hosts was matched by the excitement on the field as the Sky Blues turned around a difficult position into a handsome win at the home of the Bulldogs in Belmore last night.
Remember to scroll the photos if you’re on your mobile. I got heaps tonight!
An early 5.15pm pick up for Michelle, we had no particular plans for this one, other to meet Speedy to celebrate his birthday with a Sydney FC win. The social media posts of the souvlakia meal deal on offer tonight, and the fact that we jagged a very handy car park just before 6pm in the street adjacent to the stadium, meant that there was only one choice of where to head, and that was straight into Belmore Oval. We’d get a couple of drinks in before kick off, right?
The Olympic players were on the field inspecting the field when we arrived, the Sydney FC coach had just arrived, and there were a lot of familiar faces already at the game. Lawrie McKinna, former mayor of Gosford, ex-APIA Leichhardt player, manager of the Mariners and saviour of the Newcastle Jets, was there early. He did a double-take when he spotted Jets stalwart Todd Blackwell and was keen to point out whose jacket Todd was wearing!
The food on offer was being prepared under the alcove behind the main stand, out of the elements, and it was a non-vegetarian, non-vegan meaty production line. This was the main drawcard! With meal deals in hand we retreated to the grandstand and found the reserved section for the visiting Sydney FC fans up in the far corner. No beers though! That was perhaps a missed opportunity to get some easy revenue, but would create a very wholesome atmosphere.
A gloomy day was descending into a gloomy evening and the floodlights came on to illuminate the arena. There were passing trains and sprinkles of drizzle as the Cove took up position and the stadium filled. The players emerged and we had an impeccable minutes silence, alas I didn’t catch who it was honouring. The game was ready to get underway and the roar grew from the crowd.
You can read all about the action, and watch the highlights online, but the first half was a tight affair. Sydney FC had a series of corners that they couldn’t convert, while Olympic wasted a great chance when Andrew Redmayne was forced into a great save, the rebound smothered when a goal looked likely. Half an hour in the hosts did take the lead though, and it was totally against the run of play, the winger romping down the left before unleashing a shot straight at Redders, but the deflection from the attempted block by the defender took the ball high over the stranded keeper and the ball looped into the net for a freak goal. That was a ‘magic of the cup’ moment right there, and fears of a 1-0 defeat by a fluke goal were in the mind as the Olympic players celebrated mockingly in front of the Cove. Wankers.
A lengthy stoppage where starlet Patrick Yazbek and Luke Bratten collided in the middle of the park saw Sydney FC regroup, and another agricultural challenge led to a free kick wide right and another yellow card. The cross was floated in, new boy Liam McGing rose to head the ball back into the area and the goalkeeper hesitated to allow Adam Le Fondre a free header for the equaliser.
The Sydney Cove was in full voice, the Ladies League’s Michelle was roaming with her camera, the young dude who dances throughout the games at Kogarah was given his moment on the loud hailer by the capo, and this was a great atmosphere. There may, or may not, have been some smoke too, which raised the roof and made the evening a real event.
The promised half-time entertainment happened in the stand, with the Greek music pumping as the rain teemed down. It was good. A quick wander around the stadium to find the facilities and the grandstand was looking pretty full. Lots of familiar faces, players I’ve played with over the years with their kids, and the whole Sydney Olympic family, all players from the juniors through to the senior teams, were in attendance to give this a real family feel.
The second half was fantastic entertainment, as the Cove sang all the way through. Paddy Wood burst through a couple of challenges to tuck in a calm left foot shot inside the post for the lead, prompting a chant that Brosquey would raise his eyebrows at. Yazbek and Calum Nieuwenhoff had good efforts saved, one by his own player, and the busy Elvis Kamsoba fired one in from the edge of the box which looked in but just missed the post. It wasn’t long before Kamsobo got his goal, and it was a teasing cross that saw the keeper and a defender somehow lose out to the diminutive striker, suggestions of a Maradona hand in there to force the ball in. Later replays confirmed it, but it might have been accidental – no VAR tonight! A new chant for the new striker too.
With the game wrapped up, it was time for some comedy defending to set up a big finish to the game. A free kick from the left saw Redders come and get nowhere near the ball and he simply stood as the ball rolled into the net via perhaps a defender, perhaps an attacker. That was a disappointing moment, but all this did was open up the game even more – a proper cup tie crescendo. The final goal was a clearance from Joel King that seemed to hold up and the pacy Trent Buhagiar raced through and clipped the ball expertly over the keeper to round off the scoring, a potential Harald Schumacher moment thankfully averted.
The Cove made their way down to the front for the last throes of the game, and the four minutes of stoppage time were eaten up. The players and officials were clearly delighted with the win, and the fans enjoyed the moment too after the early scare.
This was a great advert for FFA Cup football. The players were very approachable at the end, there were smiles from all the players. The Burgess brothers were getting a lot of love – in Max I think we’ve unearthed a gem of a player, and the security guards eventually cleared the area of stragglers, sending us all out into the rain.
Birthday boy Speedy had enjoyed his night, we left him and Steve and were in the car in moments, following the traffic all the way to Parramatta Road before turning off for home. Back by 10.30pm, good timing for a school night. We get to do this all over again in a fortnight when Sydney FC take on Macarthur in the round of 16. We’ll run the rule over our opponents this weekend when we meet in the A-League, but it will be a tougher assignment albeit with less cup romance. The FFA Cup – a big tick.