Sydney's dramatic derby a timely tonic for Oz football

The fast and furious Sydney derby clearly illustrated Australian football's innate ability to defy the odds and bounce back when the chips are down.


Chris Herd, left, Bobo, centre, and Milos Ninkovic contest a high ball Source: Getty Images

The game in this country is not travelling too well at the moment and it needed a feel-good moment to make us forget all the troubles that are afflicting it.

Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers provided it on Saturday night with an enthralling 2-2 draw that restored our faith in the game we all love.

The derby gave us fans and pundits an opportunity to talk about real football and skilful footballers not the shenanigans at administration level that have thrown the game backwards, the Socceroos' trials and tribulations that have turned our FIFA World Cup campaign into a lottery, the future of want-away coach Ange Postecoglou or the way the game is run.


There is no question that the Sydney derby has become one of the highlights of Australia's sporting scene and once again the game at Allianz Stadium did not disappoint the 35,000 crowd and the thousands who watched it on free-to-air and pay television.

The Wanderers played beautifully and with purpose for most of the match and were perfectly entitled to feel they deserved more than a meagre point.

Sydney, like the true champions that they are, fought desperately to come back from two goals down and could have pinched an unlikely win in the last few moments but substitute Matt Simon's point-blank header from two metres out missed the post when he should have done better.

Hayden Foxe's players took their rivals to the cleaners in the first half. Keeping a close eye on Serbian supremo Milos Ninkovic, the Wanderers were good value for a two-goal lead from Oriol Riera and Brendan Hamill headers until David Carney earned a penalty for the Sky Blues just before halftime that striker Bobo converted.

"I thought the penalty was very soft ... it was a key moment in the game because it gave them more belief," Foxe lamented later.

Sydney's midfield was completely overrun in the first half as Ninkovic was forced deeper and deeper into his own area by the Wanderers' aggession and clear intention to give Sydney no time and space on the ball.

It must have been greatly satisfying for Foxe to see his side reduce Graham Arnold's Sky Blues to playing long balls from the back to target man Bobo in a bid to offset their technical and tactical inferiority in the middle of the park.
"We needed to adapt," Arnold said when asked to explain why his team had to resort to such uncharacteristic long-ball tactics after the break.

"If you're not having a great day playing out it is no crime to play long balls."

Sydney levelled the match with a slightly deflected shot from midfielder Josh Brillante midway into the second half.

All in all, the draw was a fair result because the Wanderers showed more polish and were better organised almost throughout the evening, while the Sky Blues' fighting spirit and stubborn refusal to be beaten did not deserve to go unrewarded.

Much had been said during the week about the merits of Australia's two major city derbies and the general consensus is that the Sydney derby is bigger and more passionate essentially because it has the geographical and cultural elements its Melbourne counterpart lacks.

But this is a moot point because, regardless of which of the two derbies is bigger or better, the A-League is just fortunate to be able to enjoy six quality derbies a season the like of which many countries in the world would love to have.

The honours were even on Saturday night but, pardon the cliche, A-League football was the winner by a mile.

Bring on the next derby.

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4 min read
Published 22 October 2017 at 2:30pm
By Philip Micallef