Western Sydney Wanderers drew first blood over rivals Sydney FC, taking out a 1-0 win in the first Sydney Derby of the season.
The first derby played at Allianz Stadium in more than two years and a fixture that had plenty of hype coming into it. The game certainly delivered with the Wanderers scraping past their rivals in a fiery affair thanks to a Kusini Yengi strike in the 70th minute.
In front of more than 34,000 fans, the game produced one of the best atmospheres of the season. Wanderers coach Marko Rudan said derby fixtures are the best games in a footballing calendar, and the game was one of the best he’s been involved in.
“Derbies are the best…it’s as simple as that, you look around the world, everyone sitting here is a football lover and we all grew up on that whether it be on ABC or SBS or whatever but we understood what derbies meant around the world,” Rudan said post-game.
“Whether it be in South America or Europe we live for it, and it’s important that we teach that to the next generation and the next generation and the next generation.
“And now I understand we haven’t got a footballing culture as such, but games like tonight you know epitomise what can be done if we understand and put the game first.
“But [tonight’s game], that’s up there [with the best derby clashes in the league’s history], the derbies are always up there and it’s easy for me to sit here and talk this way because we’re the winning side.
“But irrespective [of the result]. I’ve been on the losing side last year as well derbies are the best.”
Having taken the three points, Rudan said the win was for the fans and emphasised the importance of how his team needed to be an extension of the Western-Sydney community they represent.
“I’ve said it before we need them [the fans]… tonight was for them, tonight was important,” he said.
“I told the players the story of the west, like how many of them [residents] came here as immigrants to a beautiful country like ours, not just for freedom but to start a new way of life.
“And it wasn’t easy for them…because of the language they spoke or the food they ate or the faith that they believed in. They were kicked around from pillar to post [and] looked down upon for a long time.
“They had a choice, they could of packed up and gone back to their homeland, but they stayed and fought and their story is our story and we needed to remind them [the players] that this game’s not just about us, it’s bigger than that, it’s about them [the people of Western Sydney].
“They went through a lot of pain but they showed a lot of courage. The fans in terms of their story and that’s what we needed to show tonight.”
Another motivating factor coming into the game was to bounce back from its 3-0 drubbing at home to Central Coast the week prior. Following a disappointing result, Rudan emphasised their performance on that night wasn’t good enough and that the side made up for it with a derby win.
“Last week was just a disaster and we just cannot afford to do that. I was disappointed I had to look within myself as well and reflect and find out you know why we did,” he said.
“That’s not the culture that we wanted at this club, they’re not the behaviours that we wanted and they made amends tonight.”
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A pivotal figure in the result was Milos Ninkovic who was the centrepiece of the game having spent the past seven seasons with Sydney FC and lined up for his first derby in the red and black.
Having received a hostile reaction from the Sydney fanbase, the occasion didn’t get the better of the Serbian who put in an honourable performance. He was a driving force in the midfield and would play a big part in the winning goal, setting up Yengi.
Rudan was pleased with the veteran’s performance saying the way he played tonight is the reason why he was brought in.
“That’s exactly why we brought him to the club, exactly why,” he said.
“I was surprised that he kept playing on the left-hand side of midfield the last couple of years, particularly you know where you’ve got to do so much leg work and chase down right backs.
“He’s a classic number 10 for me [with] the way he’ll find space. I’m glad that he didn’t have many minutes last year because the first thing I said to him ‘you’re not playing the left-hand side with me you’ll be playing higher up’.
“I’m going to save your legs without the ball and make sure that you’re fresh enough to do what you can do with the ball. It’s a little bit different he hasn’t played that position for a number of years, particularly not in this country.
“But his leadership won us the game, I thought because of the way he started, every one of his teammates knew what was going on this week.
“If he had put his head down and was hiding when the game started or his touches weren’t there or he wasn’t fighting without the ball, the players would have seen that.
“The fact that he did the exact opposite is the reason we won the game, I thought he was superb and everybody followed him.”
Having missed a crucial chance to put the Wanderers ahead just past the hour mark from close range, Rudan said though he needed to put the chance away, he defended Ninkovic’s performance stating his role is not to be a goal scorer.
“Yes he should have scored, it was the first thing he told me when I took him off [but] I had to remind him that because of the way he played and started that’s why we played as a team,” he said.
“[I told him] don’t worry about not scoring, I didn’t buy you to score 10 or 15 goals, I brought you here for other reasons.”
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