Five Sydney derby flashpoints and memories

Another Sydney derby, another packed crowd. The venue this time is Allianz Stadium and Sydney FC will walk on to their home ground on Saturday night having dominated their clashes with Western Sydney Wanderers for almost three years.

Sydney Derby

Sydney FC and Wanderers players came to blows last time the two teams met Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

But derby games are a law unto themselves and anything can happen during those 90 minutes. The World Game looks back at the Sydney derby's incredible history.

1. The career of Ali Abbas is almost ruined, November 29, 2014, Pirtek Stadium

This hurt just to watch, so imagine the pain Sydney's Abbas felt when Iacopo La Rocca clattered into him early in the game and bent his knee back in a direction it was simply not meant to go.

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It was a clumsy tackle at best from the Wanderers player and it left Abbas with ruptures to both the anterior cruciate and medial ligaments. After the game had finished 1-1, Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold described the incident as "terrible" and said Abbas was "devastated".



"He (Abbas) got smashed twice in two minutes, and no yellow card," Arnold said. La Rocca said it was an accident and that he was "not a dirty player" and played "aggressively, but with fair intentions".

Abbas was forced to endure a long rehabilitation before finally making his comeback for Sydney almost 14 months later. He is now playing for Korean club Pohang Steelers.

2. Remember Vitor Saba? He should remember this, October 18, 2014, Allianz Stadium

It was a game in which agony turned to ecstasy for the Wanderers. They led 2-0, Sydney came back to equalise, and then Wanderers midfielder Saba was sent off in the 69th minute, Only 10 minutes later the Red and Black paid the price when Sydney found a winner through Alex Brosque.

Saba made a rash decision to go in with a two-footed challenge on Terry Antonis that left the Sydney player writhing in agony. It was a red card every day of the week and as the referee held it up to Saba the Brazilian was being jostled by angry Sydney players.

Sasa Ognenovski cuffed him on the back of the head and Sebastian Ryall pushed him several times. Saba's teammates had to surround him to get him off the field.

Saba had his fans among Wanderers supporters, but it turned out he wasn't coach Tony Popovic's cup of tea. The diminutive Brazilian playmaker left the club in January, 2015, after just seven months of a two-year contract. He has since played for four different clubs.

3. Ali Abbas makes racial abuse claim against Brendon Santalab, March 8, 2014, Allianz Stadium

Late in the game, which Sydney won 3-1, Abbas started charging after Wanderers striker Santalab and had to be held back by teammates.

Immediately after the game, in an interview, an angry Abbas alleged Santalab had racially abused him.

"I come from a different country, I respect everyone here, I should get it (respect) back," Abbas said. "If I don’t get it back, I’m going to attack. That’s what happened. If people attack religion, if people attack culture, I’m against that. We need to stop that."



Sydney followed up with an official complaint to Football Federation Australia and a committee was formed to investigate the claim, but in the end it was dismissed.

The committee's stated reasoning was that due to "undisputed high noise levels and in the absence of other eye-witnesses or corroborative evidence, it was possible that Ali Abbas may have misheard what was said by Brendon Santalab".

4. Derby fever gets to mild-mannered Brett Emerton, March 23, 2013, Pirtek Stadium

You wouldn't pick former Socceroo star Emerton, a calm and measured individual if ever there was one, to lose control, but that's what the intensity of a derby can do to a player.

Emerton was red-carded in the 56th minute for a lunging challenge on Shannon Cole. Iacopo La Rocca was red-carded for the Wanderers very late in the same game, after he had lashed out with his elbow at an opponent who was holding him back.

It was a very busy night for referee Alan Milliner, who also dished out eight yellow cards in the 1-1 draw.

5. Record crowd flocks to ANZ Stadium, October 8, 2016

It wasn't one of the great derby clashes, but it was a magnificent occasion.

The Wanderers had to schedule their home games elsewhere because Pirtek Stadium was being rebuilt, so the opportunity was available to find out just how many people would attend a Sydney derby if the venue was big enough to fit them all in.

The result, on a Saturday night in round one of this season, was an A-League record crowd of 61,880 at ANZ Stadium.



The atmosphere was electric, but for the bulk of the crowd the result was bitterly disappointing as Sydney eventually turned their dominance into a 4-0 win - all of the goals coming in the second half.

Rubbing it in for the Wanderers was the fact central defender Aritz Borda was red-carded in the 82nd minute for bringing down Sydney captain Alex Brosque from behind when he was away on goal.


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5 min read
Published 11 January 2017 at 12:19pm
By Greg Prichard