Graham Arnold says Sydney FC’s huge friendly matches against EPL giants Chelsea and Tottenham show the sleeping giant of Australian sport is well and truly awake.
A massive few days for the Hyundai A-League club and Australian football came to a close on Tuesday night as Premier League champions Chelsea beat the Sky Blues 1-0 in front of a sellout crowd at ANZ Stadium.
“If ever rugby league should be worried about football, it’s now,” Arnold beamed after the match.
“The last four days 150,000 people have come through the gates to watch football.
“Last night there was 10,000 people watching Chelsea train, The Roosters played Melbourne Storm and there was 8000 people.
“If ever the sleeping giant is awoken, it’s now.”
Sydney put up another superb effort against Jose Mourinho’s men, but were undone by Loic Remy’s goal on the half hour mark.
Despite the huge gulf in budgets and class between the two squads, the home side were far from disgraced and could have even shared the spoils at the death.
Substitute Sebastian Ryall had a goal disallowed for a handball while two more chances were wasted in stoppage time.
“It would have been a great thing if we could have got a draw against the English Premier League champions,” Arnold said.
“It’s not to be but at the end of the day, the two performances over the two games [against Tottenham and Chelsea] have been very good.
“Again Sydney FC has shown they are the biggest club in the country and Sydney FC has shown again that they lead the way in the A-League.”
“It was a great experience. Our young boys were exceptional and they have set their own standards for next year, they have shown they can do that in front of 85,000 people.
“Maybe we need to hire a crowd so they can perform like that every week.”
Asked to compare the two performances from his side, Arnold said: “Tonight we were probably a bit better going forward.
“[Chris] Naumoff had a one-on-one in the first half then it got cleared off the line. I just saw the Seb Ryall (disallowed) goal and nine referees out of 10 would have given that, especially in the A-League.
“We had more chances tonight so overall it was very good.”