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Sunday, October 7, 2012
A-League big names fail to taste victory

Justin Chadwick and Liam Fitzgibbon

The A-League's trio of big-name newcomers all made their debuts but none were able to come out victorious in an intriguing and record-breaking opening round to the season.

Fans totalling 93,800 flocked to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Wellington, giving the A-League its biggest single-round attendances in history.

Former Juventus star Alessandro del Piero (Sydney), ex-England international Emile Heskey (Newcastle) and Japanese star Shinji Ono (Western Sydney) made plenty of headlines upon their arrival down under.

But the hype didn't carry over onto the score sheet, with Sydney succumbing to Wellington 2-0, Adelaide beating 10-man Newcastle 2-0 and Western Sydney drawing with Central Coast 0-0.

Former Juventus star del Piero was starved of opportunities but still managed to impress with his limited touches.

The Sky Blues only threatened in brief passages and were shown up by 19-year-old Phoenix striker Louis Fenton, who scored his side's second goal after an earlier strike from former Belgium international Stein Huysegems.

Former Japan international Ono came on as a late substitute for the Wanderers and showed several flashes of quality in a sound start for the A-League's newest franchise.

And Heskey played 70 minutes in an otherwise forgettable day for the Jets, who went behind in the second minute and were dealt a further blow when goalkeeper Mark Birighitti was red carded in the 56th minute for handling the ball outside the box.

Dario Vidosic opened the scoring for Adelaide, with Iain Ramsay slotting home the sealer 15 minutes from time following Birighitti's exit.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond said he was pleased with Heskey's contribution.

"He's a real target man up front and you see a number of times where people can look to play the ball in and look to run off him. We need to get better at that," van Egmond said.

"... He's wanting to stay out there for 95 minutes but we have to be a little bit careful with him.

"I was looking at (giving him) half a game to be honest, but he's got such a will to play and to get out there and to try and contribute."

In the grand final re-match, Glory striker Billy Mehmet scored in the 88th minute to give Perth a 1-0 victory over Brisbane Roar in front of 14,085 fans at Patersons Stadium.

Roar striker Besart Berisha, who was controversially awarded the match-winning penalty in last season's decider, was enemy No.1 in front of a hostile crowd of 14,085, with the fiery Albanian booed throughout the match.

Berisha was also yellow carded in the first half following an altercation with Glory defender Dean Heffernan.

Perth fans spared no expense in venting their fury over Berisha's grand final dive, with one support group organising a pre-match fly-over bearing the message: "Diving classes call 1300 Go Roar".

In Friday night's season opener, New Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou put his charges on notice after their 2-1 loss to arch rivals Melbourne Heart on Friday night.

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