Alessandro Del Piero celebrated his 39th birthday with a much-needed three points for 10-man Sydney FC as the Italian striker’s first-half penalty sealed a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Del Piero found the net just before half-time to settle an eventful game where all five goals were scored in the first half, and end a run of three straight A-League defeats for the Sky Blues.
An entertaining opening 45 minutes was kick-started by Richard Garcia’s third-minute strike after Mark Milligan miscued a header following a long punt forward by Vedran Janjetovic.
The former Hull City and West Ham winger skipped past the onrushing Nathan Coe and rolled the ball into the empty net to end a five-hour goal drought for the Sky Blues.
Seb Ryall then doubled the home side’s lead seven minutes later in bizarre fashion when Ali Abbas’ excellent corner was headed into his face by Victory defender Adama Trarore and flew past the helpless Coe.
The goal left Ryall with blood streaming from his nose and, while he was receiving treatment off the field, the visitors immediately took advantage of their temporary numerical advantage when the evergreen Archie Thompson turned in Connor Pain’s low, left-wing cross to cut the deficit.
After a listless start, the goal woke up Kevin Muscat’s side and they soon found themselves playing against 10 men for the remainder of the game when Marc Warren was shown a straight red card for tugging back Pain when he was through on goal.
From the resulting free-kick, Victory equalised when Milligan’s low effort came off the heels of Ryall and wrong footed Janjetovic.
A shellshocked Sydney found themselves on the back foot as their old rivals pressed forward with Milligan blasting wide from close range following a superb chipped delivery over the top of home defence from Mitch Nicholls.
But out of nothing, Frank Farina’s men were awarded a penalty just before half-time won by the wily Del Piero.
The former Juventus striker used all of his experience to draw the foul from Pablo Contreras who clambered all over him as he tried to latch onto Brett Emerton’s hopeful cross.
It left referee Peter Green with a simple decision to make and the Italian World Cup winner made no mistake for his second goal of the season.
The second half was dominated by the Victory, but Sydney’s defence held firm thanks to two good saves by Janjetovic to deny Thompson and Trarore.
Elsewhere, the Newcastle Jets upset Adelaide United 2-1 to post their first A-League win of the season at Adelaide’s Coopers Stadium.
Kew Jaliens’ first-half strike, and an ice-cool chip from Adam Taggart in the second, delivered a precious away triumph which extended Adelaide’s winless streak to four games.
The Jets survived a late Red rally after Fabio Ferreira netted in the 71st minute.
And Wellington Phoenix are still waiting for their first win of the season after a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory in Christchurch.
Perth hadn’t conceded a goal since their opening-round 3-1 loss to Adelaide United, but it took the ninth-placed Phoenix less than five minutes to destroy their clean sheet.
Carlos Hernandez whipped in a pinpoint free-kick from the left for skipper Durante to shade home on the far post.
Perth’s Brazilian Sidnei, who had troubled with his pace and quick feet down the right earlier on, set up Perth’s equaliser with a blazing run down the left as the half-hour mark neared.
He drew Glen Moss, kept the Phoenix defence scrambling then slipped the pass for Japanese striker Ryo Nagai to volley home.