The underdogs gave the current A-League champs a run for their ‘Honda’.
I mean ‘money’ …Honda was a lot of money…’Honda’, ‘money’, get it…? I tried to make a joke, made more sense in my head, anyway back to the game.
To set the scene, it’s a cold crisp night in Lilyfield, where the amazing speed and style of play from APIA Leichhardt and the disappointing run for the Melbourne Victory took place.
After a miracle traffic free drive into the inner east of Sydney, through the nightmare of what is the current WestConnex construction site, and a little altercation for a parking spot outside Leichhardt oval (Look mate, WE SAW IT FIRST!), my brother, father and I made our way into the stadium to prepare ourselves for what we thought was going to be an easy Victory win, whether new superstar signing, Honda, was on the team sheet or not.
BOY, WERE WE WRONG!
Splitting up, I decided the only way to keep myself awake during this game after a few sleepless nights was a coffee. After my daring purchase of a very strong long black coffee and finding the legend of The Ladies League, good ol’ Rosa, queen of the football banter, we found our seats on the halfway line and waited for the demolition to unfold before us.
Victory and APIA made their way onto the field and soon enough, the game began. The style of play between APIA and Victory were very different from one another. While Victory stuck to the typical A-league way; pass back, pass around, keep a steady pace, yada yada… APIA had a different plan. Bringing in speed, forward passing play and fast shifting around the park, that is the sort of style I envy. It is the sort of entertaining attacking football that shuts down the opposition before they can even take a breath and that is exactly what happened on the 9th minute.
APIA’s No, 20, Sekiya, closing into the box and forcing Acton to stretch as far as he could but not enough as the ball hits the left post and into the back of the net it goes. 1 – 0, a shocking and exciting start.
Half time comes along and after a bit of a mothers meeting talk between Rosa and I.. We’re back up and running again and if you thought the first half was all you had seen of the No. 20 jersey, you’re wrong, because on the 47th minute he gives Terry Antonis something to panic about as he flicks the ball skilfully around him, follows through and takes another shot to make it 2 – 0.
It’s about now Rosa and I look at each other and then down to Kevin Muscat who is just a level below us and probably thinking “should have brought Honda…”
APIA has this in the bag, until we get a comeback goal from Kenny Athiu after a splendid assist from Barbarouses, it becomes 2 – 1. But the crowd isn’t really phased all that much because everybody can already see that APIA is the better team here and there is no way Victory are going to come back that easily. If anything, APIA will score another and we’ll call it a (very cold) night.
Ding dong, I am wrong (again).
It’s only 5 minutes in when Victory turn the tables. A cross from the far left to Jai Ingham as he heads it towards goal, IT HITS THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BAR AND IT’S ROLLING ON THE GOAL LINE! Panic on the field and in the stands! We’re all hoping somebody comes to the rescue and gets rid of the ball before it’s too late. Once again, Kenny Athiu is in the right place at the right time, only having to take a few steps to close the distance between himself and the ball to make it 2 – 2. The hope of an underdog team to shut down an A-league superpower is wearing thin.
I turn to my right and see and BIG smirk on my brothers face who is in the row just next to us with our father, it’s about now I sorta give up and resort to focusing more on the banter via Twitter and the Sydney FC game that Rosa has propped up on her phone. (Redmayne saved a penalty…yes, I am shocked too. The man has developed into a brick wall).
Late into the second half, we’re getting scrambles and shots by Victory as they step up their game, hope is alive for the navy blue but all in the form pure luck rather than play, in my opinion (sue me), they haven’t been playing very well. On a brighter side, the midfield and forwards beginning to struggle but the defence has been magnificent, blocking 85% of any shot that becomes remotely threatening. As shocked as the crowd is at the remarkable comeback, hope comes in the form of a free kick for the Tigers as last season’s wonder boy, Terry Antonis gives away a chance to change the tide.
APIA set up the free kick as Franco Parisi steps up to take it.
I’m an idiot, because I’m just uninterested at this point of the match, honestly thinking that this will NOT go in what so ever and Melbourne are going to just come back and luckily score and take this one home, also trying to keep myself warm as well as try not to have a stroke from the coffee hit that got me at half time (caffeine is bad, kids).
As we wait for the final verdict, Rosa say’s something about the goal happening and low and behold, MILLGATE HEADERS THE DAMN THING AND IT’S 3 – 2! I’M ON MY FEET, YOU’RE ON YOUR FEET, WE’RE ALL ON OUR FEET! APIA HAVE DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE!
Fast forward, because we all know how the game ends, the underdogs have proven a point and made history! A game that many teams, NPL level or A-league can take note from. I tend to hear it a lot and not just from relatives and friends but also perfect strangers on the ball park. Fans enjoy the risky, fast paced passing style, it gives us results as well as a show to remember, it challenges the opposition and the players themselves. The A-league is our highest level but the NPL is where the magic happens and it happened that night.
Not only was it a pleasure to watch an entertaining game of football, it made my heart swell with pride to see the locals come out to support their team. From hearing the youth squad boys starting up a chant and having the entire stadium following, to the light blue and maroon colours and banners across the park and walking away from the stadium still able to hear the boys from the change rooms half way up the street as they celebrate their much deserved win. This is football. A good set of numbers in the crowd, underdog status, pride and passion, hometown glory, hard work. This is where the magic happens.
The true magic of the cup.