Wanderers paint Sydney red and black

SEBASTIAN HASSETT
Last updated 13:57 16/12/2012

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If the first Sydney derby belonged to Sydney FC, who spoiled the party at Parramatta Stadium in October, it seemed only fitting that Western Sydney return the favour.

This was the night the ''Westies'' came and conquered the city. The Wanderers' two-goal margin could and should have been greater.

The Cove watched the latter stages in stunned, awkward silence. At the other end, in numbers Allianz Stadium has not seen before, the Red and Black Bloc provided the soundtrack for the 26,176 on hand. They would sing into the night, and there may be any number of sore heads today from Lidcombe to Leura. There certainly ought to be.

This win was also the fruits of hard work from Tony Popovic, having moulded the Wanderers into such a well-drilled battalion. It's hard to believe this club was just an idea six months ago.

''There's been a lot of milestones at this club, from the first pre-season game to the first game against Brisbane but this was sweet. This was special,'' Popovic said. ''I certainly enjoyed that.''

Nothing went right for Sydney FC and even Alessandro Del Piero, who came on with 20 minutes to play, was booked. Frank Farina - who reckoned his team was ''out-enthused'' - is only too aware of the task ahead. ''The disappointing thing is that we were outplayed tonight, pretty much on all fronts,'' he lamented. ''We've got work to do, to try and get that consistency.''

However, it was in the stands where the real story was told. If Saturday night is any indication, this derby will only get better each time. Divine intervention even put a rainbow over the stadium that connected both sets of supporters before kick-off but that was the lone friendly touch.

All bets were off between the fans. Yes, there were flares, but it only added to the spectacle of two rousing bands at either end. Football fans are active, not passive.

Full marks to the those who crossed town. Their touch of raising banners with western suburbs' postcodes was a cheeky pointer to places many Sydney FC fans have never visited. That's why this city needed a second team, and why the derby will become one of this city's great sporting events.

The world-class start off the field wasn't quite matched on it as both teams squandered possession and let their nerves dictate play.

The Wanderers found traction first and it was no surprise when they went ahead on 24 minutes. Shinji Ono's delivery found Jerome Polenz, who headed down for Youssouf Hersi. His pivot earned a precious gap and his finish was beyond Vedran Janjetovic.

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Five minutes later, Ono's devilish turn left Terry Antonis standing and was followed by a gorgeous effort from distance - a looping shot that curled centimetres wide. The Japanese star is getting better by the week. If he can stay fit, something special awaits.

It's not unfair to say that both sides are shaping themselves in the image of their respective coaches. Popovic, a decade-long anchor of the Socceroos' defence, has his side tightly compressed, especially at the back. Farina, equally famous for his national exploits in attack, wants the Sky Blues to mirror his own forward-thinking style.

But as half-time arrived, Sydney FC were chasing the game at home. They could only pray that Del Piero could make the difference. He couldn't.

Instead, it was ex-Sydney defender Michael Beauchamp who clinched the game when he arrived in the right place at the right time. He hugged Nikolai Topor-Stanley like a long-lost relative at the final whistle. At long last, Sydney would be painted red and black.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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