Del Piero lets fly from the spot and the lip as poor Sky Blues get lucky

Good teams win even when they play poorly, or so the adage goes. If this is true, Sydney FC have little to worry about.

There will be times, however, when Sydney won't get the breaks this season. When that day comes they should think of this game.

For the first 57 minutes, the Sky Blues were distinctly average. Perth Glory looked a class above. Better skills, more organised, more disciplined and a 1-0 lead to boast.

To his credit, Sydney coach Ian Crook admitted afterwards that he was disappointed with how his team played. "Mixed emotions," he reckoned. He's not wrong.

The match changed in an instant when Ali Abbas threaded a great pass that split Perth's defence, perhaps for the first time all night. Blink and you would have missed it.

Brett Emerton was on the receiving end, and with the goal at his mercy, Steve Pantelidis wrapped his arm around the Sydney marquee man. Referee Peter Green pointed to the spot and produced a red card. How a game of football can change.

At least that gave the crowd what they came to see: an Alessandro Del Piero goal.

Had it not been for Pantelidis's brain snap, the Italian's impact would have been difficult to acknowledge. Playing as a lone striker for much of the game, he was largely underwhelming, giving the ball away frequently and generally looking tired.

Still, as he is paid $2 million a season to do, he stepped up, and with a healthy crowd of 22,128 looking on, put the ball in the back of the net – not before it bounced in kindly off the post. It was that kind of day for the Azzurri star. It was that kind of day for Sydney.

Now with an extra man on the field, no reason for the lethargy remained. Half an hour left and a game was there to be won.

The moment came in the 70th minute, when Perth keeper Danny Vukovic rolled the ball out to Liam Miller, only for the former Manchester United man to see the ball late. Sydney's Rhyan Grant read the play well enough to take the ball away, setting up Emerton on the edge of the box.

Cool as a cucumber, Emerton spied Vukovic off his line and dinked a superbly weighted chip over the hapless keeper.

The crowd rose and belted out a collective roar – one of relief as much as disbelief. Even the most ardent Sydney fan was wondering how they managed to take the lead given what they'd seen in the opening hour.

Predictably, Perth were stunned. They tried to rally but couldn't muster the conviction, no doubt a result of travelling so far and playing out the game a man down.

Their best chance came in the dying stages when Chris Harold headed a ball in the box that clearly struck Grant's hand. That it wasn't clearly deliberate saved Sydney's bacon – not that Perth boss Ian Ferguson would have any of that. He was "gobsmacked" and said later that it was a "definite penalty". Crook sympathised, not that it mattered much.

Harold's effort from distance then had Ivan Necevski scrambling to save Sydney's lead as the keeper acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar.

Del Piero was the most interesting man to watch when Green blew the full-time whistle. He turned away from his teammates and went straight to the bench for some spirited dialogue with the team's goalkeeper coach, Zeljko Kalac, who is fluent in Italian.

Crook later revealed that Del Piero was distinctly unhappy with how the team was playing but wouldn't offer any specifics. Either way, it's a relationship that needs ironing out despite his record of three goals in four games.

Yet while Del Piero was also fuming about the physical treatment – not least from Jacob Burns, who picked up a yellow card after one challenge – Perth will lodge this fixture in their memory bank, too.

They next play each other on January 5 at nib Stadium in Perth. Don't think "Fergie" and his men won't be lying in wait.

As for Sydney, they've won back-to-back games but have not been overly convincing in either. Next Saturday they face Central Coast away. They'll need more than luck up there.

The story Del Piero lets fly from the spot and the lip as poor Sky Blues get lucky first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop