Another Big Blue was upon us, the Victory hosting Sydney on Australia Day at AAMI Park and I was beyond excited. It is by far my favourite match to attend not only for the adrenaline rush you get playing one of, if not your biggest rivals mixed with the banter the fans dish out to each other.
It didn’t take long for that banter to start when walking up the gates a traveling Sydney fan decided to “remind me” that Terry Antonis was “theirs first”, that’s true buddy but guess what YOUR LOT DIDN’T WANT HIM.
Spare a through for my poor Mum who had never been to a Big Blue and was just discovering that the banter (from both sides admittedly) isn’t very nice at the best of times. Took us all of a few minutes to have her in full “I hate Sydney FC” mode and it was definitely extremely amusing for my brother and I.
Following some cultural performances pre-game to celebrate Australia Day and the 21,000 crowd at AAMI proudly singing the national anthem it was time for kick-off. The Victory definitely came to play coming out of the blocks with aggressive, attacking football and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat; it was so beautiful to see.
The aggression finally paid off when Troisi earned his side a free kick 25-yards out in the 19th minute and I was hoping we’d capitalise early. Ola Toivonen walked up to take the kick and sure he enough…
THE BIG SWEDE SENT IT CURLING OVER THE WALL, INTO THE GOAL AFTER IT HITTING THE INSIDE OF THE POST AND RICOCHETING IN! AAMI Park erupted with pure delight and Ola’s chant was being sung with glee by everyone in navy blue.
To add another reason for the Victory faithful to adore Toivonen he was channelling his inner Besart Berisha giving stick to the Sydney players every time they’d decide to go in for a sneaky push or shirt grab on the Swede. He wasn’t having any of it, happy enough to push back and “show them whose boss.”
It wasn’t 100% smooth sailing for the reigning champions when in the 33rd Ninkovic (or Ninkobae as the TLL ladies affectionately call him) created a wonderful chance for Le Fondre who ran onto the ball, hitting in straight away but sent it just over the bar!
A collective sigh of relief echoed at AAMI while I was screaming like a banshee, DON’T LET THEM SCORE!!!
Both sides were raising their intensity with Victory looking to reflect the authority shown on the pitch on the scoreboard with another goal, while Sydney who are pretty good at getting results on the road were looking to equalise. It wasn’t to be when after two minutes of extra time the sides head into the sheds with Toivonen’s goal being the difference between them.
The second half began with the expectation that Victory consolidate their lead but also knowing in the back of my mind that Sydney had the quality up front with that Ninkovic and Le Fondre combo to definitely find a goal or two.
Retre came out firing in the 54th sending a rocket toward Thomas, but the Victory keeper comfortably saved it and I was thanking every football god that we have such a quality keeper. On a positive note, Victory weren’t going to “park the bus” when Baena sent a great cut back just outside of the box to Troisi who sent it flying over Redmayne in the 58th.
GOAL! A 2-0 lead for the Victory and a cheeky “call me” celebration to match referencing the lack of phone call by Arnold as the Socceroos coach, I couldn’t care less about the celebration was just ecstatic we scored another!
But in typical Sydney fashion they pulled one back in the 63rd when a great ball from Calver to Ninkovic. Ninkovic’s shot was initially saved with Thomas getting a hand to it, but he pounced on the stray ball and found the back of the net.
Head in hands, all I wanted at this point was Victory to find a third goal or do everything in their power to not concede another. To add a little more anxiety, Le Fondre needed treatment in the 67th after a collision with Thomas who had every right to go for that ball and I was definitely waiting for a penalty or free kick for Sydney because… if I’m honest that’s exactly what would be expected during a big derby there’s at least one or two controversial refereeing decisions. But thankfully it was a goal kick (Le Fondre was ok by the way, running around as normal in no time).
Sydney weren’t going to hand Victory the bragging rights, putting serious pressure on the Victory midfield and defence including a fortunate block by the bar in the 79th and another in the 82nd which was blocked by the Victory.
At this point I swear I was going to have two heart attacks and a stroke, dying for the 90th minute or a third goal. I would have taken either at that point to be 100% honest.
Thankfully following 5 minutes of stoppage time, the Victory held strong and bagged the 3 points regaining second place on the ladder knocking off the Sky Blues. While giving bragging rights (at least until the 6th of April when Sydney host Melbourne at the SCG) to those of us who proudly wear the navy blue of Melbourne. This season has seen Victory rack up two Big Blue wins both with 2-1 results so the third is sure to be another tough encounter. Until then… GO VICTORY!
By Jakie Manevski