Sapsford: It’s surreal

Football is a game of moments. Games, seasons, even players’ entire careers can change trajectory on a whim; a deflection here, an injury there.

For young players, the moment may come at very short notice, blink and they might miss it and never get the same chance again to stake their claim in the game.

Zac Sapsford in his first season in Red and Black struggled to find his moment; he made five appearances for the Wanderers, but all of them were off the bench and none were more than 15 minutes.

An injury further hampered his ability to feature in the team, and whilst his quality was clear, he hadn’t been able to stamp his place in the team.

By his own admission, he wasn’t expecting to play such a crucial role in Saturday’s Sydney Derby success, but a Brandon Borrello injury after just 17 minutes saw the 21-year-old Sapsford thrown into the derby cauldron against his former club.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 25: Zac Sapsford of the Wanderers celebrates after scoring the teams first goal during the A-League Men round five match between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Allianz Stadium, on November 25, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

For the first time he was playing for an extended period of time in an A-League match, if there was any time Sapsford moment was going to come, this would be the stage.

And when it came to him in the 72nd minute, he took it with both hands; a mistake from the opposition defence saw the ball fall to Dylan Pierias, he slid the ball across to Sapsford, who skillfully cut inside Jake Girdwood-Reich and lashed a powerful right footed drive into the net, sending the travelling Red and Black Bloc into a frenzy.

It was his first ever senior goal, and ended up being the winner as the Wanderers held on for a 1-0 win, their third in a row over their city rivals away from home.

After the game, Sapsford admitted he was on top of the world after scoring the winning goal in a Sydney Derby.

“I don’t think I could feel any better. It’s quite surreal to be honest. Looking around when I scored that goal was the best feeling in the world to be honest.”

He was the toast of Western Sydney after the game, and his delighted teammates gave him the chance to lead the post-match celebrations with the travelling hordes of Wanderers fans.

It was something Sapsford would cherish.

“I’ve always wanted to do it (grab the microphone and lead the celebrations), but I felt I’d save it for a time where I’ve earned it. And I think today because I scored the winner, I was like, ‘I’ll grab it and do it for the boys’, and it was amazing.”

Whilst it is a disappointment Spasford’s golden moment came at the expense of a potential injury to Socceroo Brandon Borrello, it may have been somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as coach Marko Rudan revealed the team had been training for much of the last two weeks with Sapsford in the attacking role due to Borrello and Lachlan Brook being away on international duty.

With Borrello potentially facing a stint on the sidelines, Sapsford may get an extended run in the team giving his winning contribution in the derby.

He has performed consistently for the NPL NSW side, his goals were crucial in them preserving their status in the division, and he may just be able to keep the senior side at the top of the table, which is where they sit after five rounds of action.

There are of course no guarantees in football, but Sapsford’s magic moment on Saturday could prove to be a crucial one for both player and club.