Melbourne…Sydney…who is better?
It is a rivalry of cities that is so famous it has it’s own wikipedia entry, so vitriolic I have probably already offended someone by listing Melbourne first. The two biggest cities in Australia maintain a healthy competition in a number of sporting codes, and so it is no surprise that the A-League has fostered and strengthened its own version.
As two of the eight teams that have existed since the inception of the league, the past nine seasons have already created a sordid history of jabs, punches and toe-to-toe slugfests that make it the premier rivalry in australian football. In this time, there have been:
- 10 Melbourne Victory wins
- 8 Sydney FC wins
- 13 draws
- 4 Finals series contests
- 1 Grand Final showdown
- 86 goals (@ 2.8 goals per game)
- 140 yellow cards (@ 4.5 per game) – Including 11 to Kevin Muscat
- 7 red cards
With this kind of record, it is easy to tell why it is called the Big Blue. Below is a list of the significant events that have led to the immortalising of this great rivalry.
1. The first Big Blue
On 28 August 2005 at Aussie Stadium, 25,208 people attended to see the first round of the A-League competition and Sydney and Melbourne’s first match as new teams. In a tightly contested match, Sydney went ahead thanks to a 44th minute strike from marquee import Dwight Yorke. However, the advantage was not to last, with Archie Thompson registering his first of many against the Sydney outfit with a 73rd minute equaliser. The A-League’s biggest rivalry was underway.
2. Big Blue Two – Melbourne claims first blood
Sunday October 16 2005
In their second meeting of the premier season of the A-League, Melbourne attained first bragging rights with a 5-0 demolition of Sydney FC. It was a heated affair, with five yellow cards brandished, as well as the derbies first red. Melbourne Victory, capitalising on a 1-0 half-time scoreline scored 4 second half goals, embarrassing their neighbouring city. Kevin Muscat and Archie Thompson both grabbed braces, leaving Sydney to scuttle home well and truly beaten.
3. Sydney’s first win
Saturday December 3 2005
The third fixture of the 2005-06 A-League season resulted in a dream start for organisers, with Sydney able to square the ledger at one game apiece, and salvage a little pride from their woeful 5-0 hiding weeks earlier, winning 2-1 at home. Steve Corrica opened the scoring in the 24th minute and the Sky Blues were able to secure the win thanks to a late strike from Sydney-native David Carney. Danny Allsop would grab a consolation goal for the Victory.
4. First away victory
Saturday 21 October 2006
In their second meeting of the 2006-07 season, Melbourne were able to overturn an 8th minute goal to Steve Corica, thanks to a second half brace from Sydney’s perpetual thorn-in-the-side Archie Thompson. It was another bitter affair, with 8 yellow cards shown in total. Further humiliating Sydney FC, Melbourne would claim bragging rights for the season, finishing with 2 wins 1 draw against the Sky Blues.
5. And the crowd goes wild
Friday December 8 2006
While forgettable as a sporting contest, this 2006 edition is famous for drawing the largest ever crowd to a Big Blue. Melbourne’s Telstra Dome played host to 50,333 spectators who were on hand to witness a disappointing 0-0 draw. Despite this, it remains ranked at fourth on the A-Leagues list of highest attended matches.
6. Sydney breaks the rivalries first drought
Saturday October 25 2008
The first away victory for the Sky Blues also broke a run of seven games without win against the Melbourne Victory, which stretched back to the third fixture of the first season. The match was the first Big Blue for Sydney’s English-import Mark Bridge, and he wasted little time making his mark, scoring in the 20th minute.
While Melbourne were enjoying a good spell with their two Costa Rican imports Carlos Hernandez and Jose Luis Lopez, it was then Socceroo-superstar and perennial fan favourite John Aloisi who would find the second and final goal, with a 62nd minute strike.
7. First Big Blue grand final and Sydney’s ultimate bragging rights
Saturday March 20 2010
The Big Blue took to the ultimate stage with a showdown at the 2009-10 A-League Grand Final. The season saw a record 6 Big Blue battles (including 3 in the finals series) with 3 wins for Sydney, 1 for Melbourne and 2 draws.
However it was the Grand-Final that saw the most thrilling contest. A 63rd minute goal to Mark Bridge appeared enough to hand the title to Sydney, but for the saving grace of Adrian Leijer in the 79th, in just his second goal of the season.
The arm-wrestle would continue until the final whistle of normal and extra-time, with neither team able to secure a second and winning goal. In an A-League first, the ultimate match of the A-League season went to penalties, where crucial misses by Muscat and Marvin Angulo allowed South Korean Byun Sung-Hwan to slot home the fifth Sydney penalty kick and provide Sydney with a second A-League championship.
8. Victory at the death
Saturday November 10 2012
The first half was all Sydney, and an early second half goal to Pascal Bosschart had them 2-0 up. That was until the 78th minute when Victory midfielder Andrew Nabbout pegged one back. Sensing the nerves kicking in for the home team, Melbourne went for the jugular and tied the game in the 86th thanks to Archie Thompson. It would be Nabbout again to break Sydney’s hearts in injury time, adding a third for Melbourne and claiming the Big Blue’s first injury time winner. Sydney would commiserate the loss with various fights and arrests in the Cove.
9. Sydney’s first goal rout
It took nine seasons for Sydney to exact revenge on Melbourne for the 5-0 defeat they suffered in just the second Big Blue, but it had the added bonus of coming at Melbourne’s own Etihad Stadium. Goals to Despotovic, Ryall, Carle and a double for del Piero stunned the Melbourne crowd and turned around a five-game winless streak Sydney had endured until then. Sydney would remain undefeated against the Victory in the 2013-14 A-League season, before bowing out at Melbourne’s hands in the first week of the final series.