26 minutes on the clock. Newcastle are 1-nil up against Sydney FC. Tiago brings down marquee megastar Alessandro Del Piero with a crude foul. The Italian stands over the dead ball. You know the rest.
And where was I? In the bathroom. I missed it. A postcard moment for a club whose highlights have been few and far between in the last two years, and I was standing over the urinal. Bugger.
Overall, though, it was hard not to be impressed by the evening … and I’m pretty sure the 35,419 who pounded the Moore Park pavement to see Il Pinturicchio paint a masterpiece would agree. Even the inimitable Emile Heskey tucked away a neat finish.
Immediately after the match, the “football was the winner tonight”, “it was good for the game” platitudes rankled with me. Sides that have genuine aspirations to finish at the top end of the table won’t drop too many points against Newcastle this season. But after taking a deep breath, realising there are still 25 more rounds to make amends for the six dropped points so far, and having my disappointment eased by Melbourne’s 5-0 obliteration in Queensland and Ange Postecoglou’s sour post-match reaction, it really was one of those warm-and-fuzzy evenings that don’t come along awfully often.
The Del Piero effect was obvious. The amount of Azzurri shirts and Juve strips was overwhelming – I just wonder whether the Italians sporting the black-and-white stripes of the Grand Old Lady realised what Newcastle’s away garb looks like. Most of them seemed to twig that they were meant to be barracking for the mob in sky blue.
Will the Eurosnobs be back for more? They could hardly have asked for a better match to entice them. A Del Boy masterclass, a good atmosphere (although the Cove was rather diluted by the atmosphere sponges that present themselves when the bandwagon is up and rolling), five goals and a genuine contest. The Perth match at Homebush in a fortnight will be a big test; hopefully a mouthwatering Sydney derby this Saturday drives thousands to Ticketek on Monday morning.
Speaking of the Harbour City Hoedown, it’s desperation stakes for both clubs already. Wanderers are yet to find the back of the net and Sydney’s defence has been all at sea. Terry McFlynn, an admired captain who has endured a terrible run of form to open the campaign, has been maligned by his own support. The audible booing that accompanied his substitution last weekend was disgraceful. But that being said, his replacement by Paul Reid was an astute move by Ian Crook, who will be feeling the heat of a winless start, especially if Sydney can’t nab three points at Parramatta this Saturday.