By Jamie Apps
As I opened my eyes and awoke from my sleep I immediately realised this day was special, because I was going to see my beloved Chelsea Football Club live and in the flesh for the first time.
I began my day like any other with a hearty breakfast before I started work, thankfully it would only be a half day which flew by. As the hours ticked by excitement levels rose as I started seeing photos all over social media from fellow Chelsea supporters decked out in their jerseys and scarves. Come 1pm it was time to enjoy a quick pitstop for lunch before embarking on my journey to ANZ Stadium for the clash.
Upon my arrival I quickly made my way to the merchandise stand and was astonished by the number of fans that had also made the journey out to Homebush by 4pm. The selection of merchandise ranged from player shirts, to hoodies emblazoned with the tour dates, scarves and caps/beanies (which would come in especially handy on a chilly winters night). I picked myself up a scarf and program before heading across to join the queue for a photo opportunity with the English Premier League Champions Trophy and Capital One Cup. It was at this moment I was greeted by a much longer queue than anticipated. It seemingly just went on forever before I finally reached the end and took up my position. Thankfully as we waited we were treated to samples of chocolate milk and even greeted by Chelsea officials who handed out commemorative pins for the occasion. As time went on and the crowd around the stadium grew the atmosphere became more and more electric with Chelsea fan songs and chants spontaneously breaking out. Two and half hours after initially joining the queue I was finally at the front and got to quickly snap a couple of shots of myself between the two trophies perched on podiums, this is a photo and moment I will always treasure (the EPL trophy is much larger than I expected).
From here it was only half an hour until kick-off so I quickly made my way inside the stadium, stocked up on refreshments and found my seat just in time to see Petr Cech, Jamal Blackman and Mitchell Beeney make their way onto the pitch for their warm-up session. A short time later the remainder of the touring squad would appear from the tunnels to a raucous cheer from the already two thirds full stadium. Watching the players run through drills as José Mourinho watched over them intently was almost exciting enough, but I remembered this was just a taster of what was to come.
As the team sheets were announced to the crowd it was clear a large majority of the crowd was there to see the EPL champions as Sydney FC received resounding boo’s to Chelsea’s loud cheers.
As the game kicked off in front of 83,598 fans Chelsea made a strong start, with nerves seemingly causing Sydney FC to take some time to settle into the game. Chelsea had some wonderful attacking movements from the brilliant Eden Hazard, who’s pace and agility caused the defence to have problems stopping him. Diego Costa also showed flashes of his brilliance as he skipped in and around defenders whilst in the box, before firing shots just wide or having them smothered by a scrambling Janjetovic.
As Sydney settled they had scoring chances of their own and the game became more open, with players from both sides clearly not going into challenges fully committed. The deadlock was broken on the half hour mark through a cracking strike from Loic Remy as he cut inside from the right flank before lashing a left foot strike into the top left corner.
Unfortunately for fans Diego Costa had to be withdrawn from the game just prior to the break through an apparent injury concern, replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek who tuck up the number ten position as Remy moved into the center-forward role.
The second half saw more changes to the Chelsea lineup as Mourinho experimented with youth. This saw Sydney begin to press the play and build up some pressure on goal, almost scoring the equaliser late in the game, only to be denied by a handball inside the six-yard box. This ensured a grandstand finish with Sydney continuing to push the pace whilst Chelsea displayed their ever resilient trademark defence to close out their season with yet another clean sheet and 1-0 victory.
The atmosphere throughout the stadium during the game was great for the most part, especially for myself as I was located in the section beside the Chelsea active supporters zone, who sung for most of the game. Unfortunately there was a slight lull in the rest of the crowd during the midway point of the second half as throwing paper planes from the stands onto the pitch became a more entertaining prospect for some. This took away from the experience somewhat for me, however those that remained focused on the game were treated to a fantastic spectacle watching some of the best in the game display their talents.