The Sydney Derby proves why you should never, ever leave a sporting event early

Jamie Dunkin
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Jaiden Kucharski of Sydney FC celebrates his 98th minute winner in the Sydney Derby
Jaiden Kucharski of Sydney FC celebrates his 98th minute winner in the Sydney Derby Credit: Jeremy Ng / Getty Images

At the 78th minute of the third Sydney Derby of the season between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers, just in front of me at Allianz Stadium, I saw something curious.

A young man, probably no older than 16, left the tight and tense match, poised on a knife’s edge at 1-0, with at least 20 minutes to go before full time.

A penny for this young man’s thoughts some 20 minutes later when the A-League Men saw the craziest ever finish to its landmark fixture.

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Sydney’s overwhelmingly passionate Brazilian striker, Fabio Gomes, put the Sky Blues ahead on 72 minutes after nearly complete domination by the home side. It looked like the home side had probably done enough to squeeze past their rivals who had hit the post twice in the match.

But, as football often is, it was instead a truly unpredictable finish that shows why the round ball game is the greatest there is.

A heavy head knock between Western Sydney’s Zac Sapsford and Sydney’s captain, Luke Brattan, paved the way for seven chaotic minutes of stoppage time.

Wanderers had barely sniffed on the Sydney goal in the previous 45 minutes of the second half, but in the 95th minute Sapsford, bandaged up almost like a pirate, had a free header and buried it to make it 1-1.

Sapsford jumped the fence to celebrate with the travelling Red & Black Bloc, before quickly jumping back over the hoardings to get the winner for the Wanderers in what would be the ultimate smash-and-grab. It felt like that was the big moment of the match, the defining bookend.

Sydney, who had let themselves down significantly with the one lapse of judgment there, didn’t waste time.

In the first passage of play after their kick-off, they went back on the front foot as the away fans were still chanting and celebrating their equalizing goal.

And barely 90 seconds after the away bay had erupted, it was time for the home fans to do the same.

Anthony Caceres played a cross into the back post for 21-year-old Jaiden Kucharski – a diehard Sydney FC supporter – and one of sport’s greatest snapshot moments happened – the wait for the ball to hit the back of the net.

Time stood slow in Moore Park for what felt like an age between Kucharski striking the ball and the eruption as the ball looped over the keeper and into the goal.

Cue absolute delirium in the 98th minute.

An all-in celebration followed as Sydney’s bench ran onto the pitch to celebrate one of the craziest endings ever. “This is why fans around the world love football”, Kucharski told broadcasters after the chaotic finish.

Sydney captain Luke Brattan jumps into The Cove active support in the all-in celebrations
Sydney captain Luke Brattan jumps into The Cove active support in the all-in celebrations Credit: Jeremy Ng / Getty Images

Kucharski’s goal would prove to be nearly the final kick of the game, and as full-time went, I was left wondering... why on earth would you ever leave early?

Within just 3 minutes, you go from absolutely devastating heartbreak to perhaps the greatest delirium imaginable.

Sure, that young man probably saved himself 20 or 30 minutes getting home, but at the cost of one of life’s greatest joys: being there in person, watching, waiting with bated breath, for the pressure valve to release and for history to be made, and a core memory to be unlocked.

There is nothing quite like being there in person to see something like this unfold. The unpredictability of sport and the sensation of being there for that unpredictability is hard to top.

Some people will tell you that you get a “better view on TV” or “well, it looks like the result is wrapped up” - but games like these, rare though they often are, are proof it isn’t over until the end, and being there, soaking up the atmosphere, the desolation, the despair, the eruption, the euphoria, is better than any lounge or sports bar.

To that young fella who left, and probably had his mates tear him a new one over what he missed, that’s a life lesson for you.

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