Sydney FC 0-1 Chelsea
2nd June 2015
Just 235 short of a stadium record, Sydney turned out in force to watch the Chelsea on Australian soil for just the 3rd time in the club’s history.
If anyone thought the game would be anything other than pedestrian then they were in for a shock.
Prior to the game, the Sydney fan park played a compilation of 500 great goals, dance music blasted out of speakers and huge screens stood either side of the main walkway alternating between images of Chelsea and Sydney players. The build up and hype around the game was huge. Spurs (who played Sydney just 3 days prior) had been a mere warm up to the main event.
Whether ex-pats from the UK getting the chance to see their team in the flesh once again or locals with the opportunity to watch real Premier League quality, this was a big deal for Sydney and it’s people.
However the size of the build up doesn’t necessarily correlate with the quality of a game. Chelsea started with a strong line-up, but as many expected they were going through the motions with less than half a foot on the gas for almost the entirety of the game.
Sydney toiled and they struggled to get a kick in the second half apart from a late rally that almost saw them nick something from the game in three separate instances during the only sustained period of pressure they applied to the Chelsea back line.
The pace of the game was mirrored by the crowd. 84,000 is a lot of people and not many made an attempt at creating a vibrant atmosphere. This left everything a little flat and I’m sure Jose will have been happy that there wasn’t a crowd baying for blood which a local team may have responded to with the odd wild lunge. Not to worry there, there was nothing of the sort.
Indeed, the loudest noise from the crowd came when paper planes began raining down from the top tiers of the stands and any that made it near the playing surface were roundly cheered. I counted 3 that made a successful landing. The others were planted into the backs of heads of those in the bottom tiers.
Of the few moments of quality, the goal was one. Just before half time, the ball was nicely worked out to the right hand side where Remy had too much room to cut inside and slam one into the top corner.
Hazard looked sharp and was the best player on the pitch by some way (how Diego Costa was given Man of the Match for his ‘cameo’ I’ll never know) while Loftus-Cheek came in for a bit of stick post-game but read no more into this – for me this was Jose nodding to the people that matter that he was taking the game ‘seriously’. It makes for a better story.
It ended up being what it was always going to be – the Chelsea bandwagon rolling into town, the press machine going into overdrive and a really nice opportunity for the club to make themselves accessible to fans on the other side of the world (which to their credit they did a very good job of).
The next stop is the USA where I imagine things will ramp up as the squad get ready to face the likes of Barcelona and PSG. For the time being, their reputation building exercise Down Under is done.