October 5, 2012
Phoenix overcome Del Piero factor
Sydney FC coach Ian Crook praised the A-League debut performance of Alessandro Del Piero, but the Italian superstar could do little to inspire his side, who were outclassed and outplayed by Wellington Phoenix, going down 2-0 on Saturday.
Goals in either half to Phoenix newcomers Stein Huysegems and 19-year-old striker Louis Fenton were just reward for the home side's control and patience at a wet and windy Westpac Stadium.
Wellington turned on a spectacular welcome for $2 million man Del Piero, with southerly wind gales and heavy rain hitting the stadium an hour before kickoff.
Sydney lacked cohesion and although former Juventus star and Italian World Cup winner Del Piero showed some nice touches, there was little in terms of support from his teammates for much of the first spell.
Del Piero's free kicks and corners provided chances in the second period, and despite his lack of recent match time, the former Italian international played the full 90 minutes.
Crook, who is charge of Sydney for the first time, said Del Piero's class showed through, but was unhappy at his side's poor possession rate.
"I think he showed at times some fabulous quality," Crook said.
"Some of his stuff was fantastic, but we expect that because of who he is and what he is, a top class player.
"We turned the ball over a little bit too much, but the positives for me were that we continued to try and play.
"It's disappointing, full credit to them, they deserved to win the game. But it's been the first time we've had this group playing on the pitch playing a meaningful game."
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert afterwards paid tribute to his team's strong defensive effort in tracking Del Piero closely, a role that featured not only defensive midfielder Manny Muscat.
"We talked about it all week... the closest person around Del Piero is the one we're going to engage," he said.
"Manny was there a little bit more than others tonight. He's a terrific player - he nicks things so well in midfield and he's good on his feet. He kept the pace of the game going for us."
Huysegems provided a genuine goal threat for the Phoenix up front, but there were other options in the elusive Benjamin Totori and former Newcastle striker Jeremy Brockie.
The deadlock was broken just two minutes before halftime when Muscat's through ball found Huysegems in the clear, and the Belgian import finished clinically.
The visitors came out with more intent in the second spell, Crook signalling his intent in bringing on young Panama striker Yairo Yau and attacking midfielder Ali Abbas as the hour mark approached.
But Wellington continued to create chances, Paul Ifill drawing an excellent reflex save from Necevski shortly after entering the fray on the hour-mark.
Fenton thudded home a superb diving header with just on 15 minutes left, connecting to a pinpoint cross from Muscat, and the Phoenix controlled the closing minutes for a well-earned win.
|Wellington Phoenix FC||Sydney FC|
|1 Mark Paston||1 Ivan Necevski|
|22 Andrew Durante||18 Trent McClenahan|
|18 Ben Sigmund||8 Adam Griffiths|
|3 Tony Lochhead||3 - Fabio|
|2 Manny Muscat||15 Terry McFlynn|
|11 Jeremy Brockie||14 Mitchell Mallia|
|7 Leo Bertos||16 Joel Chianese|
|16 Louis Fenton||7 Brett Emerton|
|10 Stein Huysegems||10 Alessandro Del Piero|
|24 Alexander Smith||19 Krunoslav Lovrek|
|9 Benjamin Totori||17 Terry Antonis|
|20 Glen Moss||Vedran Janjetovic 20|
|12 Tyler Boyd||Sebastian Ryall 2|
|8 Paul Ifill||Ali Abbas 22|
|28 Ricardo Clarke||Yairo Yau 21|
|Paul Ifill for Benjamin Totori (62)||Yairo Yau for Krunoslav Lovrek (60)|
|Tyler Boyd for Louis Fenton (78)||Ali Abbas for Terry Antonis (60)|
|Ricardo Clarke for Stein Huysegems (90)||Sebastian Ryall for Joel Chianese (81)|
|Jeremy Brockie (71)||Terry Antonis (20)|
|Terry McFlynn (48)|
|· Squads: Wellington Phoenix FC | Sydney FC|