Lawrence Thomas didn’t look comfortable from the outset. “He doesn’t look like he’s played in a while,” my companion – a former keeper – said, “He’s not handling the ball well.”
The Victory keeper had been promoted following Nathan Coe’s poor performance midweek against Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League. An error by Thomas led to Heart’s first goal in the Melbourne derby.
In that moment, Thomas achieved whipping boy status.
He wasn’t at fault for the other three goals that Melbourne Victory conceded – although what exactly he was doing in the incident where Ansell was sent off is anyone’s guess – but that didn’t stop an element of the Victory supporters getting stuck into him at every opportunity.
Before kick-off, the Imperial Hotel in the city was heaving with Melbourne Heart supporters. There was an unfamiliar feeling in the air – optimism? The police, 15 or so, were hanging out, chatting about politics and philosophy and OMG DID YOU HEAR ABOUT TAYLOR SWIFT? They also made sure that the footpath kept clear.
An hour before the first whistle the pub erupted into song. This club has changed, man, and it’s not because of the money.
The match itself started with the Victory supporters in full voice. They filled the away end, and indulged in some flag-waving as well. Heart supporters, on the other hand, have something that Victory supporters don’t: a trumpeter. Expect the two supporters groups to enter into a musical equivalent of an arms race. When euphoniums appear in the terraces, we’ll know things have gone too far.
This round of A-League games was branded with the #EraseRacism hashtag. It may take more than a hashtag to erase racism. Certainly the hashtag did little to stop the “gypsy” chant, which was heard during the first half. There is growing unease among Victory supporters about this chant. The NT leadership needs to decide the chant’s future.
The start of the second half was delayed while the crowd was shown a series of pie charts on the big screen. “I hope they are pie charts about pies,” tweeted one correspondent. No – but if they had been, they would have shown that there were no pasties or sausage rolls available at AAMI Park, just boring meat pies.
While the away supporters laboured as the goals continued to go in, the home fans were having a party. A party with a trumpet.
Victory fans started to trickle out when the third goal went in. When Harry Kewell scored Heart’s fourth, it was CHOOSE YOUR OWN CLICHÉ TIME:
- the trickle became a flood/torrent
- the away supporters rushed the exits
- the Victory supporters had seen enough
- they headed for the exits en masse (that last bit’s French!)
Heart fans on the wing were giving the Victory fans plenty of stick. Perhaps Heart fans have earned it. 4-0, and Heart is unstoppable.