Del Piero inspires Sydney as Wellington trumped

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/2014 – Round 26

5pm, Sunday 6 April, 2014 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 4
(Allesandro Del Piero 33’ 45’, Seb Ryall 57’, Ali Abbas 61’)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Carlos Hernandez 56’)

Wellington Phoenix’s remote-at-best Hyundai A-League play-off hopes were finally extinguished on an atrocious Allianz Stadium playing surface on April 6, as an Alessandro Del Piero-inspired Sydney FC team gave their own prospects a massive boost by downing the visiting side 4-1.

The 10,148 fans who braved the elements witnessed both the artistry of the Italian maestro and aspects of the dark arts in his game, as the former World Cup winner made light of the conditions to steer his team to victory.

Wellington enjoyed the better of the early exchanges before Del Piero hinted that he was in the mood to perform in the tenth minute. Wriggling his way out of two challenges near half-way, he surged downfield past another two opponents before letting fly from twenty-five yards with a shot which Glen Moss tipped round the post.

Four minutes later, it was Keystone Cops stuff in the Sydney goalmouth, as Carlos Hernandez ignited a Wellington raid with a fine lofted pass to Jeremy Brockie, racing through the inside right channel.

He steered it inside to Stein Huysegems, who was thwarted by a superbly timed Sasa Ognenovski tackle. The ball fell kindly to Brockie, whose shot was blocked but not cleared by two Sydney defenders, who collided with each other in their eagerness to clear the danger.

Thankfully for the home team, goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic pounced on the loose ball before it spun over the goal-line, although such were the treacherous conditions, the sphere would more than likely have stuck in the mud!

Sydney stepped things up after this scare, with Sebastian Ryall’s sixteenth minute cross zooming across the face of goal before the fullback sent a header flashing inches over the bar, having been picked out by Del Piero’s eighteenth minute corner.

Seven minutes later, Del Piero sent Richard Garcia galloping through, only for Moss to race out and block well at the striker’s feet, then recover to prevent Garcia from taking advantage of the rebound.

In the 32nd minute, Sydney’s marquee man engineered the game’s opening goal for himself by foul means rather than fair. After checking inside Michael Boxall, he found Jeremy Brockie blocking his path to goal on the edge of the penalty area.

The Wellington striker clipped Del Piero, but the Italian certainly made the most of it as he went down inside the area – he was later booked for an even more blatant dive in the 68th minute. Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones wasn’t far away on this occasion, however, and instantly pointed to the penalty spot before booking Brockie for the foul.

Del Piero duly potted the spot-kick, the catalyst for five minutes of madness in which four more players were booked. What sparked this burst of activity was a Hernandez free-kick into the danger zone, which Janjetovic spilled.

His attempts to regather it allowed Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund to dive in in an effort to make the most of the opening. Needless to say, Janjetovic’s team-mates didn’t like this development one little bit, and within seconds, there was a gathering of the clans, with jostling, finger-pointing and name-calling aplenty.

Order was eventually restored – the situation was well handled by Griffiths-Jones, it must be said – and normal service soon resumed, Del Piero setting up the overlapping Ryall for a cross which zoomed across the bows of Garcia in the 39th minute.

Wellington responded via Hernandez’s super through ball which rewarded Kenny Cunningham’s blindside run into the penalty area. Janjetovic read the situation well and saved at the feet of the Costa Rican, while his defenders thwarted the progress of Huysegems soon after, Hernandez having again engineered the opening.

He contrived a volleyed chance for Cunningham on the stroke of half-time, which the Costa Rican directed at Janjetovic, but by this time, Wellington were two goals down, Del Piero again on target, this time with an absolutely sumptuous twenty yard free-kick which arced over the wall and dipped into the near post’s top corner – so good was the set-piece that Moss barely moved.

Wellington’s ‘keeper stood his ground and parried well as Del Piero sent Joel Chianese racing through five minutes into the second spell, while Matt Jurman’s ball forward sixty seconds later was flicked on by the Italian, instantly releasing Garcia into yards of space on the left, with Chianese in support.

The latter failed to read Garcia’s reverse pass, however, and a great chance to make it 3-0 went begging. Soon after, only the crossbar prevented Del Piero from adding to Wellington’s woes, as he unleashed another picture-perfect free-kick from twenty-five yards.

The visitors responded to this barrage by producing a scintillating move in the 56th minute, which had substitute Jason Hicks at his heart. The newcomer was the pivotal player in a delightful interchange of passes which also featured Shaun Timmins, Vince Lia and Hernandez, before Hicks slipped a ball through for Brockie to exploit.

He never got the chance to, Nikola Petkovic sending the striker tumbling in the area to present Hernandez with the opportunity to halve Sydney’s lead, one he took with relish.

Straight from the kick-off, the home team restored their two-goal advantage. Ryall led a right flank rampage which featured one-twos with Milos Dimitrijevic, Ali Abbas and Del Piero, whose sumptuous flicked return virtually begged to be volleyed into the far corner of the net, a task which Ryall executed with glee.

It didn’t stay 3-1 for very long. After Abbas had seen his deflected shot fly across the face of Wellington’s goal, having been picked out by Del Piero, the pair combined again from the resulting corner to devastating effect.

Del Piero’s outswinging delivery cleared all heads in the penalty area and landed at the feet of Abbas, lurking on the edge of the eighteen yard box. He had time to control the ball, look up and pick his spot before smashing a guided missile into the top far corner of the net in unerring fashion – it was the footballing equivalent of an emphatic punctuation mark, make no mistake.

It certainly settled the contest once and for all, with Wellington now restricted to trying to get a late consolation goal as a means of reducing the deficit. Substitute Tyler Boyd went closest to doing so with a rasping near post drive which ricocheted off the angle of post and bar fourteen minutes from time.

After Moss had raced out to prevent substitute Matt Thompson from giving Sydney a nap hand, Hernandez’s quick free-kick invited Boyd to whip a low cross into the goalmouth intended for Huysegems.

Janjetovic got a vital touch to prevent him from doing so, however, and after he watched a Hernandez free-kick narrowly clear his crossbar in stoppage time, the ’keeper and his Sydney team-mates began to celebrate an emphatic 4-1 victory which leaves their play-offs destiny very much in their hands, while ending Wellington’s hopes for another year.

Match details:
Crowd: 10,148

Sydney FC: Janjetovic (booked, 37); Ryall, Ognenovski (Calver, 86), Petkovic (booked, 55), Jurman (booked, 36); Dimitrijevic (booked, 34) (Thompson, 70), Antonis, Abbas; Chianese (Urosevski, 76), Del Piero (booked, 68), Garcia

Wellington Phoenix FC : Moss; Boxall (booked, 73), Sigmund (booked, 36) (Adams, 81), Durante, Timmins; Ridenton (Hicks, 52), Lia, Cunningham (Boyd, 61); Brockie (booked, 32), Hernandez, Huysegems

Points and ratings

Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones 6/10
Pitch 3/10 (started as 1, but got better as game went on, drainage-wise)
Match 6/10

Player points:
3. Del Piero (SFC)
2. Moss (WP)
1. Ognenovski (SFC)

By Jeremy Ruane