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Opinion

The Sydney derby was as good as any game in Europe

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Expert
27th October, 2019
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The Sydney derby wasn’t just the most exhilarating game of the season to date, it was one of the best games we’ve seen in the A-League in recent memory.

Talk about your smash and grab raids.

If we ever wanted proof that the atmosphere at Bankwest Stadium would help Western Sydney Wanderers pick up points, we got it in spades on Saturday night.

Sydney FC simply battered the home team from start to finish, dominating every statistic we care to mention except for the one that matters most.

And didn’t the Wanderers fans make the most of their victory?

After 980 barren days without a derby win, they fully deserved their celebrations following a pulsating night out in Parramatta.

And a handful of their players deserve singling out for some full-blooded praise.

One is Daniel Lopar. The Swiss shot-stopper might not look like the safest of goalkeepers around but he stood up when it counted with a match-winning performance.

So too did his Swiss compatriot Pirmin Schwegler. The box-to-box midfielder is Mr Nice Guy off the park, but on it he practiced the dark art of destruction to perfection.

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Schwegler was simply everywhere on the night, harassing the Sydney midfield with Bundesliga-like precision and clipping the heels of his opponents whenever they threatened to break away.

Meanwhile, Mitch Duke is the best signing the Wanderers have made in years, Alex Meier fired over the cross for Duke’s goal and Daniel Georgievski never stopped running.

It was a massive team effort from the entire team on the night, but watching from inside the stadium it felt like those five were prepared to do whatever it took to win.

Sydney Derby

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

As for the controversy, it was difficult to tell from my vantage point whether Kosta Barbarouses’ header crossed the line.

Did it? I don’t think VAR proved conclusively that it did, although it was hard to tell from that camera angle and goal-line technology is evidently too expensive.

The Sky Blues were in with more of a shout for a handball from Keanu Baccus on the hour mark, but apparently VAR didn’t see it that way.

Sydney FC should have equalised regardless, and it took another Lopar save to deny Barbarouses when the Kiwi striker was through on goal.

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How much will that display have dented Barbarouses’ confidence?

Adam Le Fondre was blowing up deluxe at his strike partner at one stage on a frustrating night for Sydney FC’s front duo.

It just wasn’t to be for the Sky Blues, although you’d be hard-pressed to find too many neutrals who weren’t delighted to see the Wanderers win.

And you know what the best thing of all about the derby was? It gave us so much to talk about there’s barely enough column inches to do the game justice.

Which brings us to the rest of the A-League round. Or, more specifically, some of the less helpful attitudes around it.

I was at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, just as I was at Bankwest Stadium some 24 hours later. The difference in atmospheres was stark.

And it didn’t take long – to no one’s surprise – for the familiar complaints to ratchet up on social media about the Suncorp Stadium experience.

But here’s the thing. There’s nothing stopping 50,000 football fans filling Suncorp Stadium and creating the sort of atmosphere we see at games in Europe.

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Just as there’s nothing stopping fans in Newcastle and Wellington and Geelong from doing the same thing.

And the majority of fans who complain endlessly on social media about every single facet of the A-League usually do so from the comfort of their living rooms.

Why do we listen to them?

The Sydney derby was as exciting as any game we saw in Europe this weekend.

But the key is to create that sort of atmosphere at more A-League fixtures, instead of always relying on one-off events.