Becks and his Galaxy add some Spice to all the hype
AS far as exhibitions and friendlies go, this was just about as good as it gets.
A magnificent turn-out, a vibrant and festive atmosphere, the main man living up to his end of the bargain, a sensational first half from 'the other' marquee, a host of accomplished displays from youngsters and veterans alike, goals galore and the enough Spice to highlight that Aussies and Yanks just don't do friendlies.
This was another great night of football at 'Australia's home ground'.
Of course, the majority of fans had flocked to see David Beckham, and they didn't leave disappointed, Becks proving just how prodigious a right peg he owns, dishing up one of his trademark free-kicks just before the break, delightfully struck, and generally stroking the ball from left to right, short or long, with the precision of a surgeon.
Whether he was hitting a diagonal ball 50 or 60 metres, or popping his foot under the ball and clipping one into midfield, the weight was eveything. His vision, too, was outstanding, while his delivery from the many corners he took was begging for someone like a Ruud van Nistolrooy to turn them into gold.
Ever the professional, he also survived a couple of hits, one of which (an accidental slip from Brendan Santalab) threatened to end his game after half an hour. Later, he had a couple of run-ins with sub Robbie Middleby, and almost lost his bundle on a couple of occasions. But the mental toughness saw him hang in there and honour his commitment.
A friendly this wasn't.
Setting the tone for most of the night was the Galaxy's central defender Kevin Harmes, who had a forgetful night.
Not only was he part of a central defence they pulled apart by the movement of Alex Brosque and the precision of Juninho and Ufuk Talay, but Harmes made himself very unpopular with the FC players, especially skipper Tony Popovic, first smashing Juninho into oblivion, before stomping on Adam Biddle's arm in the second period.
It was ugly work all round from the Galaxy central defence and new manager Ruud Guillt will be hoping he has the experienced Abel Xavier back soon.
Biddle may have been lucky to survive a straight red for retaliation, but it was easy to see why he and his skipper were so incensed.
The young Sydney right winger was one of Sydney's many success stories, his direct running always proving troublesome for Galaxy left back Ante Jazic. On the other side, both Nick Tsattalios and Ruben Zadkovich did well, while through the middle there was some eye-catching work from Talay, Juninho, Santalab and Brosque.
Fittingly for an exhibition, there was plenty of space in midfield, and the visitors enjoyed it just as much as the hosts. Landon Donovan, the usual skipper, was oustanding, a neat combination of pace and excellent work on the ball, while Clint Mathis did some sound stuff.
The Galaxy's constant switching of play, from right to left and back again, was wonderful to watch and a lesson many A-League teams have yet to learn. Problem for LA was that they lacked a cutting edge, and Brosque always looked the most dangerous striker on the pitch.
On this evidence, Guillt needs a stronger spine; a goalkeeper (or two), central defender, holding midfielder and striker.
As for Sydney, after a nervous start, this was an excellent display, especially in front of so many new fans. The Cove were magnificent, a throw-back to season one, and the banner reminding "70,000 people; we play every week", was well thought.
Let's hope that many of the new fans come back for more, but more importantly, that more A-League games are as open, exciting and full of action as this great night for Australian football.