It’s Friday night and more than 10,000 people have turned up to watch Sydney decimate Newcastle at Leichardt oval, one of them baby Lola Barbarouses seeing her first football game where maybe her dad will score his first goal for his new team.
I’m sitting on the hill beneath the scoreboard minutes before kick off.
“Here yet?” I text my friend.
“We’re still at Gary Owen pub coz God just came out!” he replies.
“Fair,” I write, thinking Robbie Fowler is for some reason in nearby suburb Rozelle.
“Food!” he clarifies. The food makes them arrive late to the stadium to miss the first ten minutes and with them, Sydney’s opening goal, the Jets’ opening goal, and Adam le Fondre almost scoring one of the fastest A-League goals ever.
It’s not to be the Jets’ night and you can see it from the first whistle.
They kick off and the ball finds Rhyan Grant deep in the Sydney half who ferries it back up the pitch where Nigel Boogard misdirects a defensive header goal side and Glen Moss who’s well out of goal can only watch as Alfie chases the ball, kicks and… misses.
Sydney keep possession for the first five minutes with strong build up play and a Luke Brattan cross from outside the box that finds Milos Ninkovic too fast for the Newcastle defender, scoring 5 minutes in. Luke Brattan has been so impressive since joining Sydney, seamlessly fitting in and finding gaps, and he’s been doing it all night, ref!
Newcastle get the ball for the first time since kick off. They work it into the Sydney end for a corner, taken by Dimi Petratos who feeds a masterclass cross to Matthew Millar who heads it in too easily. 1-1 and we have a football game on our hands, and it’s still only 8 minutes in.
Alfie’s going for goals but as yet unlucky. Sydney has a derby loss to avenge and with their pretty lucky goal tonight not as precise as Newcastle’s legitimately good one – we’re not convincing yet.
While not completely dominant, Sydney are definitely playing assertively but Newcastle are finding their defensive legs. Sydney’s front line are finding an easy grace but it’s still a string of near misses for Alfie. Brandon O’Neill takes a free kick in the 17th minute which barrels straight into Ryan Topor-Stanley in the wall, rebounds back to O’Neill who passes to Alfie who misses. Close, though.
He finally gets his goal at the 41 minute mark. Alex Baumjohann, who’s game’s been filled with exquisite turns and perfectly weighted passes, sends one to Rhyan Grant who sets Alfie up right in front of goal, who converts on his first touch.
2-1 to Sydney heading into half time but they’re not out of the woods. Newcastle have had moments of individual brilliance and some strong crosses but just haven’t been able to convert them into goals or a team performance.
Early in the second half Baumjohann gets stuck feeding corner after corner. A minute of end to end play sees the ball back near Newcastle’s goal with an easy save from Redmayne. Sydney are playing end to end football and using the width of the pitch. Another Baumjohann corner at the 50th minute finds the head of Ryan McGowan deflect the ball to John Koutroumbis for a Newcastle own goal.
3-1 from two defensive errors will suck the life out of any team, particularly when there’s still half an hour to play. Sydney have become dominant and we’re about to see something special from our favourite snake, Kosta Barbarouses. O’Neill feeds the ball to Kosta who, from the left of the goal dribbles it, cool as you like, past Moss who’s defending the corner, past two defenders, turns and slides it in. He’s stoked. Corica’s stoked, it’s 4-1.
Corica uses the opportunity of being 3 up to sub off Ninko, Grant and Wilkinson, letting us see the return of Trent Buhagiar who’s carried an injury since early last season. He’s fast and furious, getting the biggest cheer of the night.
Sydney have returned to the dominance that we’re used to seeing and unfortunately for Newcastle, it happened on their watch. There’s something special about a buzzing Leichardt Oval and Sydney’s team of superstars finally starting to gel.
By Kelly Simpson