One team in Sydney …

A Saturday afternoon double-header at a windy Kogarah left us all in agreement. There’s only one team in Sydney. And that’s the A-League Women’s team. After the women clicked into action and secured the three points with a classy 3-1 win, the men tried their best to emulate their counterparts but were lucky to escape with a draw as the second half caved in on them.

A double-header usually means an early start, and with ball crew champion Rossco summonsing his crew at 3.30pm, that meant a 2.45pm departure from Ryde with Aurelia and Michelle. Making the meeting time by the skin of our teeth following a very slow journey through Sydney’s Saturday traffic, we parked up near the stadium and headed for what has become our regular, the Kogarah Clubhouse. Meeting up with Newcastle Jets fan and the future of Australian coaching Lucas amongst the W-Jets Active, we headed to the stadium after a good feed and a few drinks. This was the opening weekend of the Dub, and we were keen to take in the whole experience, kick off and all.

We arrived to a sparse Cove, but The Ladies League Michelle was ready to get the show on the road, our capo for what would be an exciting game for the powerful Sydney FC up against Newcastle Jets. There was a lot of camera action, sound and video equipment being set up and fiddled with, and some of it was for an interview being filmed with Michelle. All very interesting being behind the scenes for a behind the scenes look at football. The W-Jets Active had brought a half dozen fans with them with flags and banners, and were enjoying themselves, singing away up the far end. We found our voices, and a comical moment saw one of the Cove boys race to The Hill to give us a “Come on you boys girls in blue” as the Sydney fans tried to out-sing their opponents.

Well done that man, doing a hill solo for the Cove

The football on offer was flowing, although most of the action was up the other end of the field. A Remy Siemsen hit was saved in unorthodox fashion by the visiting keeper and the somewhat shackled Princess Ibini hit one in that appeared to strike the frame of the goal. The Jets didn’t really offer anything of an attacking threat and it was up to Sydney to dictate the play. Goalless at the break, that all changed after Courtnee Vine almost scored with the first move of the second half. A clever flick by the ex-Newcastle player sent Siemsen through to outfox her unfortunate defender and score a poacher’s goal for the opener. A woeful clearance was then pounced on by Vine to slot the ball across the face of the goal where Ibini applied the simple finish to make it two, just as we’d been remarking how quiet she had been. Sydney were purring, and they were eager for more.

It was the Jets though who scored next, and they had just made a change when the substitute pounced on a moment of indecision at the back to reduce the arrears with her first touch and a good finish up at the other end. This could be a nervy finish with still over 20 minutes to go, but from a corner soon after, Sarah Hunter’s flick wrong-footed the entire Jets defence for Vine to poke the ball in from close range. Two assists and a goal for a truly consistent performer – we’re expecting great things this season and she is delivering already. Taylor Ray was looking for a goal too and the defence opened up for her, the shot closed down though as she raced towards goal. A very harsh red card for Newcastle after Ibini was upended by the corner flag then allowed Sydney to take their foot off the gas, and the game ended 3-1.

The blaring music at full time and the fact that the men’s team came out and took over the field made it difficult for the Cove to celebrate with the players, but they finally came over after a lot of prompting and saluted the fans, Remy signing Michelle’s Siemsen shirt after her post-match interview.

We retreated to Bay 18 just next to the Cove, as the stadium started to fill up, and it was time for a wander to see Aurelia at the other end of the field doing her ball crew duties. The W-Jets Active had been replaced with the men’s Active, and there were some familiar faces in the crowd, including Jets legend Todd and the Toon Army crew from Cheers Bar in their Newcastle Jets shirts.

The Channel 10 / Paramount crew were battling the elements as night fell and the second game was in danger of being a rain soaked event.

Thankfully it wasn’t, but it was windy again. Sydney FC got out of the blocks quickly. There was a verve about their play that we hadn’t yet seen this season, and Milos Ninkovic on with Max Burgess was a mouth-watering prospect. There were only ten minutes on the clock when Adam Le Fondre was fed by Paulo Retre and went down in text-book fashion as the keeper advanced, penalty to Sydney. Up stepped the man himself to convert and the Sky Blues had their first goal of the season. Relief all round. Up our end, the exciting Olivier Boumal volleyed just over the bar with a Tony Yeboah effort, before Sydney struck again. Clever movement from Elvis Kamsoba saw him connect with a low Le Fondre cross to tap in from close range, although it was the Lomana Lua Lua gymnastic tumbles that really caught the eye in the celebration. The home team and the home fans were buoyant, and even a lengthy VAR check for the initial ball over the top couldn’t stop the celebration.

Two goals up at the break, it was a case of how many in the second, shooting with the wind and towards the Cove. Alas, it was nothing like that, and a cheap giveaway inside halfway led to the exciting Daniel Penha releasing live wire Valentino Yuel to finish with ease past Andrew Redmayne to set the nerves jangling. We didn’t have to wait long for an equaliser too, a long raking ball from midfield setting Yuel away again down the left and he finished for a second time with a devastating shot high into the net. Ninkovic threatened to do it all himself and ran half the field to get into the box, but the shot was blocked. Another chance soon after looked as though it would complete the ultimate turnaround, but the Jets striker blazed over when teed up nicely in front of goal. The Cove and the Sydney players thought we had rescued the points when Adam Le Fondre finished from close range to set the celebrations away at the home end. After a long, long wait, VAR ruled it out again and the game reverted to 2-2, much to the disbelief of the crowd.

The game was over, post-mortems began and the dazed players came to applaud the fans. The mood was not great though, and a tired-looking Sydney team trooped off down the tunnel. Rhyan Grant for one will be looking for some quiet introspection into another below-par personal performance. What a fizzer for the home crowd, and for the watching women’s players who were seen around the stadium as the game drew to a close. The once proud Sydney FC, recent premiers and champions, perennial finalists, are looking well and truly jaded after three games and face the kind of season endured by Victory last season – two nil up and you f*cked it up, as they say, but it could easily have been worse.

But we live to fight another day. Four points today should have been six, and Sydney FC Women find themselves streets ahead of their male counterparts in the battle for supremacy at the club. With FFA Cup action during the week and a trip to the Central Coast on Sunday for our men’s side, the biggest game is on Saturday, the Sydney derby at CommBank Stadium. Princess Ibini will go searching for an even better goal than the one she scored last season. Come on Sydney! Hopefully we can keep the Cove Active support growing for the women at the home of our Western Sydney rivals – it sure was fun today.

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