Sydney FC came to Macarthur looking to emulate last season’s handsome win, and brought a good number of fans to the Bull Pen for what is fast becoming a favourite away day. An outrageous VAR decision turned the game on its head and the Sky Blues dominated the second half without ever being totally comfortable, and in the end the width of the cross bar was the difference as Steve Corica’s men survived to take all three points back to East Sydney.
A 4.15pm departure from Ryde saw us pulling into the main carpark of Wests Leagues Club around 5pm, a fabulous run down the M5, and we were on our first drink by the time the club realised that they should have the A-League showing on the big screen. The Asian fusion served up here is fabulous, and the Stone and Wood on tap is a fraction of the Allianz Stadium prices; Caprioskas on tap too, very impressed. The expansive bar area was half and half with Bulls and Sydney FC supporters, and we were all loving the sunshine streaming in as Central Coast dismantled Western United after a harsh send-off in the earlier game that was an omen for the game ahead. As soon as that was finished, it was time to take the short walk to the away gate to see how many fans had made the pilgrimage.
Conditions were perfect as the sun began to set, casting a spell over Lumeah, the sky glowing orange. Warm-ups had already been done, beers were bought and we took up a position comfortably close to the Cove, but not quite in it. As soon as the megaphone was cranked and the songs started, it was time to move in amongst it and get the full away day experience amongst the many familiar faces. We Are Sydney was belted out for a long time into the game and Sydney FC were on the attack from the kick off. Filip Kurto was busy early on, and it looked like Rhyan Grant had a glorious chance to score on the rebound, but blazed miles over from a tight angle up the far end. This was a great start by the boys in blue.
A cheeky one-two with Anthony Caceres then saw Robert Mak race into the box and he fell in the challenge. It didn’t look like a penalty, but we know this ref and he plays it by the book and awarded the most generous of penalties. We were expecting it to be overruled, but shockingly VAR went with the decision and we had a spot kick. Up stepped Robert Mak who hit the ball too close to Kurto, but in stormed crowd favourite Paddy Wood to thrash the ball home for 1-0. After a couple of minutes of celebration in the away end, a free kick near us was lifted into the area and up went the heads, an immediate equaliser from the home team. This was more like the Sydney FC we have become accustomed to over the last 12 months, and it was a sorry sight to see the lead, that was so generously gifted to us, wiped away so quickly.
More drama followed as Wood raced through and bumped shoulders with the Macarthur defender, both players hitting the deck in what seemed to be a fair challenge. The referee thought diffirently and brought out the yellow card. Much to the amusement of the Cove, when the referee was called over to look at the screen, the yellow card was replaced by the inevitable red and Macarthur were reduced to ten men, Jonathan Aspro waved off the field as the chant of ‘Oh Sydney conspiracy’ was gleefully sung by the Cove. Two incredibly soft decisions, but we know that Sydney usually struggle when the opponents go a man down, so there was no high expectation of a bloodbath here.
The assistant referee down by the away fans was having a nightmare, overruled a couple of times by the referee, but that was a side-show to the main event as Sydney poured on the pressure. Deep into stoppage time at the end of the half, we got a second, Grant popping up again to create the chance, cutting back for Joe Lolley to thump in a shot that was saved, but Mak got hold of the rebound and fired home. The away corner was jumping. Half time was a time to relax and get more beers, and the second half started with only half of the Cove back in place.
The magical 2 litre carton of milk made its appearance during the early stages of the second half, hoisted aloft to howls of delight as if being sacrificed to the gods. Time for some fun chants and the Lolo song got the Cove bouncing. Sydney were all over Macarthur on the field, Retre couldn’t force in a third, Kurto saved from Segecic, and this was as close to a training-ground exercise of attack v defence as you could get. The worrying thing though was that they couldn’t bring the home side out of their compact shape and it was frustrating for everyone in Sky Blue. In the end, as time was running out, Kucharski swept in a beautiful ball for Segecic, unmarked at the far post, to sweep home for 3-1. Game over!
Or so we thought. Five minutes to go and Al Hassan Toure split the defence to send sub Anthony Carter through and he finished well, in off the post, to make it 3-2. Again Sydney FC were brittle when taking the lead. Still, with time well and truly running out, surely we wouldn’t do an Adelaide United and let it slip. But we nearly did with the last kick of the game as Donachie fell running back towards goal and Carter beat Redders with a thumping shot but couldn’t get the ball under the bar, the ball bouncing to safety amidst expletives from the away end. The final whistle brought the heart-rate down a notch and we had our victory. The players, let by Joe Lolley, were delighted to come and thank the travelling fans.
This was an extended meet and greet, the youngsters all enjoying their time in the limelight, and a number of players heading to other parts of the stadium to chat with friends and family. The stadium was fairly empty by the time we made our way back up the steps and around to the far end. The Hollywood sign of Campbelltown was beaming over the stadium. The home players were still meeting and greeting by the metal bull at the far end of the field, Daniel Arzani and Filip Kurto still shell-shocked after being put through that second half by the joy of VAR.
After walking Siobhan to her car, we were out of the carpark and away into the night with little delay, a circuitous route via the M7 to pick up kids from parties and we were back by 11.30pm, still glowing from the three points on the road.
Another great away day at Macarthur tonight. The Cove were in full voice. The referee and the VAR did as much as they could to help us claim the points, but the worrying signs were there as Sydney FC simply ran out of ideas how to break down the Macarthur rearguard action. Their keeper Kurto was immense, but in truth we should have known how to win against ten a lot more comfortably than we did. A 100% away record masks the poor return so far at Allianz Stadium, and we’re off on the road again next week, a Sunday afternoon trip to Redcliffe to play Brisbane Roar. Three from three would be great. Forza Sydney FC!