They fell short of proving the point they wanted and for the most part were flattered by their opponents, but most importantly Sydney FC made the first step towards salvaging their season by defeating Perth Glory at Allianz Stadium.
There were more than a few nervous moments and those who braved the grim weather would have returned home with shorter fingernails than they came with but there was an undeniable sense of relief at Allianz Stadium just seven days after the ground was awash with frustration, disenchantment and vitriol.
The fans had their say again, but this time pleaded for action rather than the heads of the club’s leaders. If anything, the Sky Blues’ week from hell seemed to galvanise the players.
After playing an integral role in an emergency players-only meeting during the week, Alessandro Del Piero continued to lead his troops away from a looming disaster and it was through his influence that the Sky Blues took a deserved lead early on.
A clever through ball caught the Perth defence napping and Serbian striker Ranko Despotovic pounced on the space between William Gallas and Michael Thwaite to snap a shot with the outside of his right boot for his sixth goal of the season.
Sydney were in cruise control for the opening half hour, taking advantage of the charitable amount of room the Glory offered in the midfield. The visitors did not look like testing Sydney’s goal although they nearly equalised in the 28th minute as Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic made a horrible mess with an attempted fist of a corner. He deflected the ball on to his own cross bar and amid the following scramble, the Glory were awarded an indirect free kick for a high challenge. Glory striker Shane Smeltz lashed the resulting free kick from eight metres but the onrushing Sydney wall denied him a goal.
When the visitors eventually created their own chance, they let themselves down. Sidnei Sciola found Darvydas Sernas unmarked in the middle of the box but the Lithuanian scuffed his shot harmlessly over the bar. It was a fitting end to a mostly scrappy first half.
The Glory made it easy for Sydney FC with their lack of pressure off the ball and their inability to create when in possession, traits which did not appear to have changed after the break. Winger Sciola constantly tested Sydney’s defence but his poor decision-making and his penchant for wanting to beat his marker failed to turn attacks into chances on goal.
Glory coach Kenny Lowe made his first change on the hour mark, replacing the misfiring Sernas with Chris Harold which nearly had an immediate impact. He hit a long-range strike that was deflected wide by Janjetovic.
Just as the tide appeared to have turned in Glory’s favour, Terry Antonis dashed their hopes of a comeback in his first A-League game in more than 10 months. The 20-year-old celebrated his return from a lengthy injury lay-off with the best goal of his young career by dribbling past two defenders before curling a left-foot shot from distance into the bottom corner of the net.
As Sydney FC were still celebrating, Perth clawed one back a minute later through Rostyn Griffiths.
The towering midfielder latched on to a Nemanja Marinkovic free kick to loop a header into the far corner of the net. Despite Aaron Calver being sent-off in the dying moments for a late tackle, Sydney hung on for a vital win.