A late header from Ryan McGowan has delivered Sydney FC a 3-2 win against Adelaide United in a rollicking A-League season opener.
McGowan nailed a free header in the 87th minute to settle a feisty Friday night encounter at Adelaide’s Coopers Stadium.
After Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre produced a rapid first-half brace, Adelaide rallied with replies to Nikola Mileusnic and Al Hassan Toure.
And just as the fizz appeared to be dwindling, South Australian-born McGowan produced the decisive moment of his first A-League game.
Unmarked from a Brandon O’Neill corner, McGowan floated to five metres from goal and sweetly hammered a header.
The season opener also included a straight red card to Adelaide’s Ryan Strain, who was marched for felling Le Fondre in a second-half sprint towards goal.
And the fresh campaign also featured video assistant review flashpoints, including an offside call which denied a goal to new Sky Blue Kosta Barbarouses.
Barbarouses thought he’d delivered for his new club when he slotted past Adelaide goalkeeper Paul Izzo in the 60th minute.
But a VAR review found the New Zealander offside and the goal was disallowed.
Just 10 minutes earlier, the VAR system decided Adelaide’s lively newcomer Toure had squared scores 2-2.
In another narrow call, Toure was ruled onside when his teammate Riley McGree played an audacious lifted pass which paved the path to goal.
Toure’s score lifted the 9903-strong Adelaide crowd which had earlier slipped slumped after Le Fondre’s quick-fire double.
Just 20 minutes in, referee Alex King halted play for a VAR check – he watched replays of a Le Fondre clip brush an arm of Adelaide captain Michael Jakobsen inside the area, and awarded a penalty.
Le Fondre duly scored, thumping into the top right netting.
Just six minutes later, the Englishman started and finished a flowing play which diced Adelaide’s defence.
Le Fondre supplied Milos Ninkovic, who played Alex Baumjohann into space and the German’s cut-back across the goal-face precisely found Le Fondre for a tap-in.
Adelaide answered just before halftime when Sydney’s Baumjohann tangled with Ryan Kitto and the Reds were given a free kick some 20 metres out.
Mileusnic dult produced a stunner: a curling strike which eluded a diving Thomas Heward-Belle.