Glorious, glorious entertainment

Sydney FC 4 Perth Glory 2 – A League Women

A key fixture in a busy end-of-season schedule brought a fired-up Perth Glory to Kogarah in search of a result to catapult them into top-four contention. In their way were Sydney FC, hoping to build on the weekend’s big result and take themselves to the summit of the A-League ladder just in time for the final game on Saturday. What we got was a game of pure entertainment, a Cove of unbridled passion, and smiles all round at the final whistle. You should have been there, it was one of the best!

As usual, a 7pm kick off means a rush through some pretty dense traffic in Sydney, and due to work and an unexpected football training drop-off, we were already running late, leaving the northern suburbs well after 5pm. No opportunity then to make use of my ill-thought-out five-year membership at Club Kogarah, and it was straight to the stadium. Alas the VIP parking spots right in front of the only open gate were all taken, but there was plenty of space opposite the school, so we only had a two-minute wander up the walk of fame to Gate B. Shane and his membership crew were there to welcome us to the show, and we knew what was at stake. Fail to win and the Premiership is out of our hands, but a win would send us top with one final game to play.

Stadium dinner again tonight, but it was freshly made; Michelle was back on the cans tonight, but I was heavily refreshed the night before, watching the Ecuador game, so made a conscious decision to detox, and anyway I was driving.

There was a meagre crowd, not surprising given the time and the venue, and the Cove had optimistically relocated themselves to Saturday’s prime undercover spot. The acoustics were much better there anyway. As the Cove started to assemble, our marshal for the evening relocated everyone to the open-air spot at the bottom left of the main stand. Word was that the agreement was to house the Cove there, the more cynical in our group understanding that it was so the Kogarah Oval fun police could have us in plain sight of the security cameras to administer their usual heavy brand of customer service.

Cove capo MMTV was, as always, first in position. The group grew and, perfectly timed as I finished another boxed dinner, the first chant started, “We Are Sydney…” echoing around the sparsely populated stadium as the players emerged and went through the pre-match routine. Super fan ‘the Hawk’ was ball crew today and the mascots were an older mob, so the players had to almost high five each other over the top of the mascots. The chanting continued well after the opening whistle, Sydney shooting towards the deserted ice-cream van end in the first half.

Super coach Ante Juric kept faith in 15-year-old sensation Indiana Dos Santos who played a central midfield role, quite the starring role for a fresh-faced young star, but she was already part of the Sydney machine and was relaxed and aware whenever she had the ball.

Perth looked very capable opposition early in the game, soaking up pressure and making in-roads themselves, but that all changed midway through the half when Cortnee Vine picked up the ball on the right, danced past her tenacious defender and squared the ball across goal. Rachel Lowe was in amongst it, and who should be following up but Dos Santos and she buried a shot past Morgan Aquino for 1-0. All the outfield players raced to congratulate the scorer, which confirmed to the watching crowd that it definitely was Dos Santos. What a moment. The Cove responded with an impromptu ‘In-diana In-In-diana’; quite a tragedy of a chant, but great timing and enjoyed by everyone.

The Cove drum, expertly played to ther point that no one would have noticed a stray drumstick flying to the ground mid-song on more than one occasion, was having a few issues remaining in place on the seat and was tied in place. There was something a little special about the atmosphere. It was fun, it was loud, and everyone was eager to make as much noise as possible on an otherwise still night. On the field, Princess Ibini was upended in the penalty rea but the referee was inexplicably looking the other way and she sat with her arms out wondering what had happened.

Mackenzie Hawkesby then fired in a shot from the edge of the area that bounced off the bar, and Sydney looked to assert their dominance and were looking for more goals. Perth though were persistent. As half time approached, a good move by Perth saw Sydney FC picked apart and Sarah Hunter was harshly adjudged to have brought down her player, somewhat off the ball, and a penalty was awarded to jeers from the Sydney fans. Up stepped former TV star Alana Jancevski to slot home perfectly, and it looked for a moment that she was about to run straight to the active fans and give us a serve. She stopped on the edge of the area though and was swamped by her teammates. This could be a turning point in a vital game for Perth and they looked pumped.

The scores were level for a minute or so. Dos Santos rolled the ball out to Vine. She looked to go around her defender but ended up just bundling through the middle of two Perth players, think Amor Layouni for the Westie scum at Adelaide in that crazy 4-4 draw. She steadied herself to finish low into the net for a terrific goal. Bloody fantastic. The Cove were in full voice. ‘Cortnee Vine, drinking some wine’, went the chant, one of the favourites at a women’s game over the last few seasons, and we seemed to be making one hell of a din.

That was the end of the action in a cracking first half. If the second was anything like this, we’d be in for a treat.

Perth made two subs at the break, the two players coming on looking like the tallest players on the field. Sydney looked sharp at the start of the second half. Vine was rampant. The game took a twist though within ten minutes of the restart when Hannah Blake misdirected a cross that floated goalwards. Jada Whyman realised and scrambled to make the save, but somehow, instead of tipping the ball over, she could only parry the ball into the path of Perth substitute Gabriella Coleman who stooped to loop a header back across Whyman and into the goal. It was a dramatic moment, and the Sydney fans were thoroughly expecting Perth to push on and try and get the winner. We would be expecting a completely open game now, and so it turned out.

Whilst Perth weren’t exactly in all-out attack mode, they were leaving gaps and Sydney were seeing more and more of the ball. Ibini and Cortnee Vine were motoring down the wings, and the corner count was rising, Hawkesby lifting in the crosses from both sides. It was a Hawkesby free-kick in the end that opened up Perth. Sub Madison Haley lost her marker in the six-yard box and when Vine challenged for the header, the ball dropped for the American striker who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

The Cove was the place to be. There was mischief in the air. The chants were getting louder and louder, longer and stronger, and even when a ‘Bondi’s Beach’ line disappeared from one chant, it didn’t matter and the singing continued. I would go as far as saying it was a frenzy, akin to an evangilistic healing session at some crazy church in the USA.

There was always a chance that Perth might sneak back into this game, and Sydney should have put it well beyond doubt, Vine guilty of another horrible miss and Ibini failing to pull the trigger from the edge of the box when well-placed. It took until almost the final minute for the three vital points to be confirmed. There didn’t seem to be much on when Vine raced after a lost-cause down the right, but Hawkesby helped her pick the pocket of her defender and race away. Ibini was unmarked in the area, although Vine’s cross wasn’t the best. Somehow the ball evaded the defender racing back to block, and Ibini took the gift and placed a low shot past the keeper for a delightful fourth goal. Game over.

There was still time for Vine to make way for a famous name, Anika Stajcic making her first appearance in sky blue to applause in the final throes of the game, but it was lost on the crowd as the celebrations and singing were in full flow.

The scenes at full-time were nothing short of amazing. Endorphins were running high in the Sydney team as they came to celebrate with the Cove. Even our marshal was giving the twinkle fingers as the players linked arms and celebrated. A rendition of “We Are Sydney…” had the players dancing before captain Nat Tobin was urged to do a call-and-response – “Come on you girls in blue!” – which was repeated back to her by the buoyant Cove. Again the players danced, Macca bouncing around to the hypnotic beat.

Indiana Dos Santos was either speaking with family or giving an interview into Dave’s phone at the end. The players were full of happiness and enjoying the company of their family and friends, and were more than happy to endulge the fans who had assembled at the front of the main stand with selfies and signatures.

We left the stadium as the sparse crowd thinned out to only the family members, and made our way back around to the car. Interesting to note just how the livery and branding of Kogarah Oval has changed since last year. No flags up, no banners, this is simply not our home. We were out of there quickly, swinging back past the stadium and out into the night, arriving back home about an hour after kick off, so quite early!

This had been a terrific evening. Everything good and wholesome about an active support was on display here. Chants sung with gusto, some chants that continued at full volume for ages, and even some that were so succinct and abrupt in their ending that it seemed to be choreographed. This was such a happy occasion. If you’d had a shit day at work, and you’d battled the traffic to get here for an early kick off, what a reward this was. A tip of the hat to our fearless capo MMTV, our legendary drummer and everyone who made it to Kogarah to make some noise for our girls in blue. I know everyone feels the same – Saturday at the pub is cancelled. The Cove will be out in force for the final game of the A-League women’s season in the double-header – be there for another exciting game as Newcastle Jets come to town to try and spoil the party.

Forza Sydney FC.

Our fanous number 22, now forever known as Whatsie

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