Sydney FC sink the Wanderers with late show
After 18 long months and four failed attempts, Sydney FC finally gave their fans the right to claim what they've so desperately wanted: Sydney is Sky Blue.
It wasn't attractive and their performance wasn't memorable, but they couldn't care less after clinching a stunning yet gritty comeback win over their fiercest rivals.
There was little glamour about the play, but most importantly for the bulk of the 40,285 fans in attendance, it was vengeance as Sydney came back from a goal down and conceding a penalty to stun their foes with three straight goals.
Whatever the beautiful game is, neither side played it in the opening minutes, and in a strange way, that in itself was the beauty. Fouls, missed passes and frantic football in front of a raucous and passionate crowd made it clear that this was no ordinary match. Amid the nerves and excitement that overshadowed any sense of composure, the blue side of Sydney almost celebrated the opener. Terry Antonis slipped a through ball past Wanderers defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley to play Ranko Despotovic through on goal, but the Serbian was denied a goal by Ante Covic.
The Wanderers were slow to settle, though a slip-up from their opponents gave them their first chance. Sydney defender Sasa Ognenovski misread a long ball, allowing Brendon Santalab through on goal, but he lost his footing and rushed his attempt.
The fervent opening to the match wasn't a precursor to a fiery encounter, rather a scrappy start that simply lead to disorganised football. If there was a value for possession, it wasn't clear as aimless long balls became the norm for Sydney FC. For all their woes, the Wanderers couldn't truly test them before the break.
Whatever words were said in the change room failed to jolt the Sky Blues into life as they fell behind just three minutes after the restart. Santalab knocked down a cross from the left to Shinji Ono in the box and the Wanderers marquee struck a volley past Janjetovic and celebrated in front of his adoring supporters.
The travelling fans were still celebrating when referee Kris Griffiths-Jones pointed to the spot. Richard Garcia was for some reason in the back line and showed his unfamiliarity in defence by conceding two fouls in the box, pulling down both Santalab and Youssouf Hersi.
Up stepped Mark Bridge to stab a dagger into his former club that would've killed the contest, but he was no match for Janjetovic who produced a spectacular save. It was a defining moment as Sydney drew level just minutes later. Nikola Petkovic took over free kick duties from Alessandro Del Piero and delivered a cross with such swerve that it evaded the on-rushing Covic in goal and landed on the forehead of Sydney's Matt Jurman who shook the back of the net with an unexpected finish. The leveller rattled the Wanderers and sparked moments of on-field madness reserved only for derbies.
Richard Garcia and Jerome Polenz had unfinished business from game one this season, and the Sydney forward opened a new skirmish with Michael Beauchamp, while Wanderers' Iacopo La Rocca was lucky not to see red for elbowing Ali Abbas in the face in the 65th minute. More drama was sure to follow with Garcia to have the last laugh.
Wanderers captain Beauchamp carelessly played a back pass intended for Ante Covic directly into the path of Garcia, who slotted the ball into an empty net in the 75th minute.
The salt was firmly rubbed into the Wanderers' wounds after Polenz handled in the area, and Ali Abbas sealed the result.
Sydney Morning Herald