It’s the first day of December, the day before Adam LeFondre’s birthday, and one that I’ve been waiting for: Western United take on Sydney FC at their home stadium in Geelong.
It looks freezing – the smattering of fans that have found their way to the stadium are rugged up. It’s The Cove’s National Service Week which means a more than usual amount of fans have made the trip from Sydney.
Team news causes an upset – Sydney’s Ninkovic has made it to Geelong but not the pitch, pulling out with a fever. Anthony Caceres, who’s been impactful off the bench this season, is listed as a straight swap instead. WUFC’s Besart Berisha is starting on the bench, Scott McDonald in his place.
Western United kick off and immediately take control of the game. Their passing game is precise, catching them in Sydney’s half for most of the first fifteen minutes. They’re particularly strong on the left, with Connor Pain and Scott McDonald asserting more control over Sydney’s Rhyan Grant than perhaps any other opposition forwards this season.
Further back and Ryan McGowan collides with Kwabena Appiah, the former coming off second best, with blood streaming down his face he stops play but not the clock. Sydney’s medics tend to him on the field and four minutes later he leaves the pitch to swap to a non-bloodstained jersey.
Play resumes and WUFC mean to go on as they started, with all possession pitch-wide – side to side, end to end. McDonald’s sliding tackle on Luke Brattan is the first yellow card of the game and reflective of the focus of WUFC’s start.
Twenty minutes in and Alexander Baumjohann seems the first Sydney player to come to life, stringing a few determined passes together to get out of some tight spaces. Meanwhile, across the pitch, there’s another head clash involving Appiah, this time leaving Brandon O’Neill worse off and a visibly annoyed Alessandro Diamanti, perhaps concerned his team is about to lose a further four minutes and momentum.
Possession is evening up.
Sydney get a free kick from a handball which O’Neill sends bouncing past the two man wall and headed over the line. WUFC mark Adam LeFondre in the box a little too half-heartedly as he makes the run for Baumjohann’s resulting corner, heading it straight past goalkeeper Kurto. 0-1.
Western United tally some attempts together as the half-time whistle draws nearer. 5 minutes are added, and Jertec shoots a bullet just wide of Redmayne’s goal. On the counter, Baumjohann runs onto the ball and crosses it to LeFondre who deflects it in the back of the net for his second goal of the game. 0-2.
Western United has been missing someone who hangs around the goal, spotting chances and heading them in… someone like a Besart Berisha. He starts in the second half.
But the second half is much the same as the first, sans the goals, with a few good chances for each team, the best for Panagiotis Kone in the 82nd minute. In the end it’s a grinding win for Sydney with both teams playing like it’s just that time of year, and can it be Christmas holidays already?
By Kelly Simpson