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Match Report: Sydney FC 7-1 Wellington Phoenix – Round 17

Sydney FC 7 (Griffiths 11′, Del Piero 21′, 23′, 39′, 70′, Culina 26′, Yau 84′)
Wellington 1 (Sigmund 79′)
Crowd: 12, 691 at Allianz Stadium. 19th January 2013

It’s not often that a team concedes seven goals and scores seven goals in the same season. For those Sydney fans who experienced the 7-2 away hiding to the Central Coast in November, this performance repaid their faith.

After last week’s courageous comeback, there was a suggestion that it would be the turning point in Sydney’s season. They may have been correct.

Sydney started with two new faces in the squad. Joel Griffiths led the line, while Tiago Calvano was drafted in at centre-back as an injury replacement.

While Tiago was untroubled for most of the match, it was the presence of Griffiths that stood out early on. With a midfield of Brett Emerton, Terry McFlynn, Ali Abbas and Jason Čulina behind him, and Alessandro Del Piero tucked into the second striker position, Griffiths’ clever runs created plenty of space for his teammates.

Additionally, Sydney’s new striker consistently won the 50-50 challenges against bigger defenders, ensuring that his side retained possession in Wellington’s half.

It was a just reward then, that he opened the scoring, and fitting that Del Piero – who benefited most from his presence – set him up.

On ten minutes, Del Piero collected the ball on the half way line, turned, set himself, and launched a perfectly placed left foot ball into the path of Girffiths, who had peeled away from his marker. A deft touch past the keeper was all that was needed to put Sydney ahead.

Ten minutes later, Terry McFlynn’s hopeful cross found its way through a crowded penalty box, arriving at Del Piero’s feet. With his back to goal, Sydney’s marquee man dropped his shoulder left, spun right and guided a left foot strike into the top corner.

Sometimes, when a few things go right, everything starts going your way. Moments after the restart, an innocuous challenge on Jason Čulina was rewarded with a penalty, and Del Piero had his second from the penalty spot.

With a three goal lead, Sydney continued to press, and just three minutes later scored again. Ali Abbas made a run down the left flank, before crossing into the path of Griffiths, who couldn’t get his head to the ball. But as the ball bounced towards Čulina, the former Socceroo swivelled on his right foot, thrashing his shot home from 18 yards.

Wellington then had two good chances to claw their way back, but Tyler Boyd and Stein Huysegems both missed the target when they should have done better.

It hardly mattered though, as Del Piero continued his first half masterclass. Picking the ball up in the left channel, he waltzed past a much younger Leo Bertos, and then crashed home from inside the box. Sydney went into the tunnel five goals up, with Del Piero scoring three and creating another.

The second half started with a cynical challenge on the Italian from a frustrated Ben Sigmund. But there was little that could stop him. The little maestro dropped a little deeper in the second half, controlling the play and ensuring that Sydney maintained meaningful possession for the first time this season.

With Wellington out of sorts and out of the contest, more goals were inevitable. With twenty minutes remaining, Ali Abbas gave a clever ball down the left channel, and, like in the first half, Del Piero waltzed into the box, went past his marker and placed the ball in the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Mark Paston no chance.

Ten minutes later, the always dangerous Paul Ifill teed up Ben Sigmund for a consolation goal after some lazy marking inside the box.

Alessandro Del Piero then left the field to a standing ovation. The 12,691 who kept the faith were rewarded with interest, and knew exactly who to thank.

The two substitutes, Blake Powell and Yairo Yau, combined late for a delightful goal, as if to prove that there was more to Sydney then their number ten.

And perhaps for the first time this season, there is. Certainly, it was Del Piero who stood out, however he didn’t look isolated in attack. Fringe players like Rhyan Grant and Seb Ryall have gradually cemented their positions in defence, while the signing of Joel Griffiths will provide an alternative option going forward.

Sydney, after months of impotence and lethargy, finally look dangerous. The confidence was plain too see in the second half, as players started to pass their way out of trouble and back themselves in tight areas.

Next week is the grudge match against Melbourne Victory. Win, and Sydney go into the tail-end of the season in the top six. It’s a good time to hit form.

Sydney FC 7 (Griffiths 11, Del Piero 21, 23, 39, 70, Culina 26, Yau 84)
Wellington 1 (Sigmund 79)
Crowd: 12, 691 at Allianz Stadium