The Big Blue Rivalry

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The following is an excerpt from Football Central’s upcoming book which profiles and studies the most influential clubs in Australian football history. One of those clubs is Sydney FC, and this passage tells the story of their rivalry with A-League club Melbourne Victory.

Sydney dislikes Melbourne, Melbourne dislikes Sydney. It is just how things are. A dispute on the location of the capital leading to the creation of the ACT has seen the two states warring since federation.

Naturally it extends to sport – cricket, rugby league, AFL all carry variations of the rivalry but it is the A-League where it comes to the fore especially in the budding years of the league.

Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory were always going to be the cornerstones of the competition as the two biggest cities. The Sky Blues won the initial championship despite enduring a five-nil thrashing at the old Olympic Park while Victory won the second title.

The first few years saw the rivalry simmer along nicely with some eventful games in front of large crowds including a sell out at Docklands that produced a scoreless draw.

The 2009-10 season saw the boiling point of the rivalry, as the two sides battled at the top after each running roughshod over the competition.

Coming into the last round of the regular season – Sydney FC were on 45 points trailing Melbourne Victory on 47 points. The Sky Blues hosted the ladder leaders on Valentine’s Day in 2010 for all the marbles in front of 25,000 fans who crammed into the Sydney Football Stadium, including a throng of Victory fans held in the south end of the stadium.

A warm and muggy afternoon turned into ecstasy for The Cove and Sydney FC fans, as Karol Kisel in his first stint opened the scoring in the 34th minute from an Alex Brosque knock down sending a dipping volley into the net.

It was the second goal in the 49th minute that sent Sydney FC into heaven, as described by Cove member Justin Smith.

“As John Aloisi picked up the ball in the centre circle, you just knew something special was going to happen. With every touch another person stood and by the time the ball hit the net everyone in the stadium including myself were on their feet in an explosion of emotion.”

The premiership was all theirs, and the next stop  was the championship, in foreign territory after a four-three aggregate loss in the major semi-finals.

Etihad Stadium was electric as the two rivals once again clashed but for the major prize, a pocket of fans in sky blue were ready to see their side be the first team to lift the affectionately named toilet seat in enemy territory.

In a tense game with six yellow cards, Melbourne Victory thought they broke the deadlock after Rodrigo Vargas had swept in a rebound before being called offside.

While the fans were still celebrating and the players remonstrating, Sydney broke down the other end, Alex Brosque floated a cross that deflected into Mark Bridge’s path like a tasty chocolate in reach of a naughty child to put them one-nil up.

There was more drama to come, as Adrian Leijer equalised from a set piece to send the game into extra time but with tiring legs, neither team could force the issue and it was off to penalties.

The shootout was a tale of two sounds – first the clank that is etched in the minds of both set of supporters as “professor of the penalty kick” Kevin Muscat clanged his effort into the post to raucous joy in Sydney and despair in Melbourne.

The second is the guttural primal yell from Korean defender, Byun Sung-Hwan who sent Mitch Langerak the wrong way to bring unbridled joy to the harbour city to complete the double, creating history and securing ultimate bragging rights over their neighbours from the south.

The arrival of Western Sydney and Melbourne City (nee: Heart) has given each a local rival to antagonise but when the two teams, fans and officials gather in the same stadium, there will always be fireworks.

Justin Davies

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