Master blaster: Alessandro Del Piero lets fly and scores during yesterday's clash between Sydney FC and Newcastle.

Master blaster: Alessandro Del Piero lets fly and scores during yesterday's clash between Sydney FC and Newcastle. Photo: Brendan Esposito

IT WAS almost ridiculously symbolic. The first person in the long line of pedestrians snaking its way towards Moore Park wore a Juventus shirt with Del Piero on the back. The second clutched the hand of his young son, both in Sydney FC shirts bearing the same name.

Old De Piero fans and new. A crowd of 35,419 packed Allianz Stadium to welcome the A-League's latest, most compelling, import. A day when the connection between local soccer and global football has never seemed stronger.

The banner in the Cove said: ''Il Pinturicchio Paint It Blue''. But, merely by turning up, the Italian master had done his brushwork. Thousands of new shirts and caps ensured the stadium had a nice coat of blue.

Ben Kennedy of the Newcastle Jets stops a Sydney FC attack. Click for more photos

A-League - Sydney FC versus Newcastle Jets

Ben Kennedy of the Newcastle Jets stops a Sydney FC attack. Photo: Brendan Esposito

It was warm and sunny. The novelty of Del Piero Day doubled the attendance. But these are the days when the A-League's dreams become reality. If not yet something that can be replicated week-upon-week, the source of credible aspiration.

There is not, you imagine, much Alessandro Del Piero can learn about the game here. Although, with the Jets wearing broad black and white stripes, he was bluntly counselled by one impertinent Sydney fan. ''Don't forget you play in blue now! Blue!''

Promptly, from the kick-off, Del Piero turned the ball over to the black and whites. Until his ''Ciao'' becomes ''G'day'', it seems some instructions will be lost in translation.

Usain Bolt is a striking athlete. Del Piero is a footballer. Even allowing for his 37 years, he is not a prepossessing figure. Low slung, perhaps a few bowls of tagliatelle over his playing weight and not flattered by shorts that would accommodate a giraffe.

Yet, even in their prime, the great poachers rely as much on intuition and cunning as their physical gifts. Yesterday, the more significant burden than a few extra kilos was the weight of expectation. Even in the earliest skirmishes, when Del Piero was involved but not influential, you could feel the anticipation rising in the crowd.

More so when the Jets' Ryan Griffiths pooped on the party with a sharp strike, and Craig Goodwin hit the post soon after. Del Piero's initial response was a long range shot scooped well over the bar. The type of gaffe that might usually be the source of disappointed murmurs. On this special occasion, the blooper received rapturous applause.

Then, after 25 minutes, it happened. Del Piero earned a free kick five metres outside the box - and his assailant Tiago Calvano a yellow card. The Italian stood alone over the ball. Then Del Piero's right foot sent the ball flying past goalkeeper Ben Kennedy's outstretched arm.

Too often, the A-League has tried to tell us that what happens on the pitch is ''world class''. But this mad moment, which created joyful waves of sky blue in the grandstands, was indisputably the work of a world class performer. The A-League, often dwarfed by its domestic rivals, suddenly felt quite big.

Even more so when Emile Heskey struck at the other end before half-time, adding his name to a collector's item of a scoresheet. As much as the home fans groaned, it is a great day for the A-League when a man capped 62 times by England, and the scorer of 117 goals in his homeland, pops up as a virtual after-thought. In the second half the skies darkened, and when Goodwin made it 3-1, so too did the mood of the crowd. If anything, Del Piero was more threatening than before and, when Blake Powell's headed goal narrowed the gap, the scene was set for a tumultuous moment. One that Del Piero worked feverishly to provide. But, agonisingly, the equaliser would not come.