ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO described it as a ''good day from the heavens''. Wellington will remember it as the day it rained goals on their future. And, long-suffering Sydney FC fans will cherish having witnessed what will be discussed as perhaps the best individual performance in A-League history.
The Italian maestro had never scored four goals in a match before. Yet, not only did he snare four of Sydney's remarkable, record-breaking haul of seven, the three apart from his 22nd-minute penalty were in a class of their own.
''I'm really happy, not only for the first time I've scored four goals, but we played very good from the first minute,'' Del Piero said. ''When you do that and you score - four - you are, for sure, very happy.
''I'm free in my mind today, that's for sure, better than other days. I can play forward easy, the team moved very, very good. We moved the ball and the ball come quickly. It's very important for me and all of the strikers, if you have more time to spend to turn or to look forward. I think you can do better work. That's what happened today. It's a good day from the heavens, you know, because when you score four, it's for sure a great moment.''
Coach Frank Farina joked that he didn't want Del Piero to get a big head. He joked that he'd rather the superstar No.10 score a goal each week instead of four in a game. But he was deadly serious when he said: ''You have to go a long way to see the quality of the goals. Leaving the penalty aside, the three other goals were just quality. It's fantastic for the team and for Alessandro, four goals, it's not often that happens for anyone.''
In what has been the club's worst season, the Sky Blues produced their best-ever performance, bagging a remarkable five goals in the first 38 minutes, by which time Del Piero had a hat-trick. It was the first time Sydney FC had scored five in a half and set them on course towards eclipsing their previous biggest win, 5-1 over Central Coast in 2005.
Del Piero then unleashed another sublime finish into the top corner of Mark Paston's goal on 69 minutes, as 12,691 fans finally saw their beleaguered side's planets align.
The celebration began with new recruit Joel Griffiths edging past Paston on 10 minutes after latching on to a perfect lob by Del Piero. It was the appetiser for Del Piero's first, a masterful left-footed top-corner finish on 20 minutes.
The Sky Blues' penalty came when Andrew Durante brought down Jason Culina and Del Piero converted. On 26 minutes an Ali Abbas cross was met by Culina, who blasted a volley inside the near post. A surreal half was topped off in the 38th minute when Del Piero received the ball on the left side of goal, took a touch, another touch, looked up and cracked a curler into the opposite corner.
Wellington stemmed the tide in the second half, but Del Piero wasn't done. He again thumped a curling shot into the top corner to make it half a dozen. Despite the convincing scoreline, Sydney's defence looked susceptible and conceded in the 79th minute to an unmarked Ben Sigmund. But they hit back after Del Piero's exit, through Yairo Yau, to make it an unforgettable afternoon.
''We played with focus today, more focus than the other games,'' Del Piero said. ''Hopefully this is another step forward for our season.''
SYDNEY FC 7 (Joel Griffiths 11m, Alessandro Del Piero 20m, 23m pen, 39m, 70m, Jason Culina 26m, Yairo Yau 84m) bt WELLINGTON PHOENIX 1 (Ben Sigmund 79m) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 12,691. Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones.
FASTEST A-LEAGUE HAT-TRICKS
- 6 minutes - Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar) v Adelaide, Oct 2011
- 18 minutes - Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC) v Wellington, Jan 2013
- 19 minutes - Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory) v Adelaide, Feb 2007
- 25 minutes - Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory) v Melbourne Heart, April 2012
- 27 minutes - Shane Smeltz (Gold Coast) v Brisbane Roar, Dec 2009
- 27 minutes - Robbie Kruse (Melbourne Victory) v Perth, Jan, 2010