“PURE elation” was how Sydney FC’s A-League and National Youth League football manager Michael Swibel described the moment he and head coach Steve Corica embraced on the pitch following the Sky Blues’ 4-1 penalty shootout A-League grand final win against favourites Perth Glory, in front of a record crowd of almost 67,000 at Perth’s Optus Stadium last Sunday night.
“For me, that was a very special moment, as I’ve known Steve for many years, and worked with him back when he was coach of the club’s winning National Youth League team,” Swibel said.
“When he became head coach [in mid-2018], we actually spoke about what it would be like if we could both celebrate a grand final win in 2019!”
Swibel, who assists the playing and coaching staff behind the scenes during practice sessions and on match days, had also celebrated with the team when they won their last title two years ago at the Sydney Football Stadium. But he said this win felt extra special.
“The euphoria in the dugout when that final kick goes in to win it was the same, but it’s a bit sweeter when that happens away from home, because people don’t expect it [victory] as much – but we always had the belief we could win.”
After Jewish singer Ilan Kidron sang the national anthem, a battle of attrition began that showcased determined, gritty defence by both sides.
Sydney FC’s goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne made three crucial saves across regular time and both periods of extra-time to keep Perth scoreless, while a controversial offside ruling by officials, after a video review, denied Sky Blues striker Adam Le Fondre a first-half goal.
Redmayne proved the difference, making two saves in the penalty shootout to enable super sub Reza Ghoochannejhad to slot through the winning shot.
Swibel – who in his playing days played more than 400 state league games for Maccabi-Hakoah – told The AJN on Monday while on his way to a team reception with fans at The Star in Sydney, the players embraced the “amazing, and hostile, atmosphere” in Optus Stadium, and demonstrated a steely resolve.
“We clearly felt the result should have been determined within 90 minutes – that we were denied a goal – but we reminded the players at half-time just how hard they’ve worked all year, and they had the confidence to go on with the job.
“In the team huddle before the shootout, we decided the shooters and their final order – the players had already practised that situation on the field the day before – and while anything can happen in grand finals, they came through.
“I was so happy for Redmayne – our ‘Yellow Wiggle’ – because he is a top guy with so much ability, and he’d worked very hard with our goalkeeping coach John Crawley, especially for moments like that.”
Swibel said his son, Jordi – a talented striker who was part of Sydney FC’s extended squad for its Asian Champions League (AFC) campaign this year – was equally “ecstatic” about the win.
“He was so happy because he’d trained with this playing group every week until he suffered a grade 3 hamstring injury last month, and the players always give him words of support and advice.
“Injuries happen in football, but it was unfortunate because he was in the mix to play in their last AFC match against Kawasaki on May 21.
“Jordi was the club’s leading goalscorer in the NPL1 NSW season, with five goals in his eight games, but he just has to bide his time – he should be playing again in six to eight weeks.”
In a post-match interview, Corica revealed he never had any doubt his players could win the match, and said the result was a real “team effort … it wasn’t just the boys, but the whole coaching staff as well – they all did their jobs,” Corica said.