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Red-letter day, but it's grey for Sky Blues

Date

Sebastian Hassett

Sydney FC get a wake-up call despite Del Piero's presence, writes Sebastian Hassett in Wellington.

Here's the good news. Alessandro Del Piero hasn't lost his class. The trick is his teammates must now learn to find him.

Queries over match fitness aside, the Italian loomed ominously in his A-League debut at Westpac Stadium last night. Every time he touched the ball, the game stood still. It is a quality held by few and revered by all.

The bad news? His teammates need to get up to speed and fast. On a typically frosty Wellington night, the Phoenix executed a mission of stealth. They were more organised, smarter, fitter and determined from the opening whistle.

If nothing else, it's a huge wake-up call. Perhaps it's one Sydney needed. As great as Del Piero is, he only has the power of one and all hopes cannot be pinned on him. Perhaps, like Melbourne Victory 24 hours before, the expectation an individual could evoke collective change was misplaced.

Either way, they need to perform significantly better for the rest of the season, starting next Saturday night against Newcastle at home.

The Phoenix were typically combative from the opening. Snarling at tackles, pressing hard and - as they did in all four of their wins over the Sky Blues last season - creating more opportunities.

Alex Smith put Ivan Necevski on notice after just eight minutes when he connected with a bullet header that forced a reaction from the keeper. When Jeremy Brockie later found himself with time in the box to contemplate, only to shoot over, the warning signs were all there.

Frustrations soon boiled over for Sydney. Terry Antonis tried to slide a pass into the clear for Kruno Lovrek, but it lacked finesse. Seconds later, Antonis was picking up a yellow for a crude tackle on Louis Fenton.

Critically, the visitors could not get their foot on the ball nearly often enough to give Del Piero and the other forwards, Joel Chianese and Lovrek, enough opportunities. At the other end, the Phoenix were finding room in the right places and might have won by a greater margin.

Fittingly, it was another European striker making his A-League debut who broke the deadlock. Stein Huysegems, a former Belgian international, snuck behind the defence just before half-time and with great composure slid his shot past Necevski. It was the least Wellington deserved.

Wellington only grew in confidence and chased a second goal to kill off the game. They found it, too, when Fenton - another making his A-League debut - powered a header past Necevski from Manny Muscat's cross.

That capped an outstanding game from the 19-year-old, who looks an instant fit at left midfield with his pace and willingness to dribble. The Phoenix academy graduate has the makings of a home-town hero.

Muscat, too, was indomitable from his position in the heart of midfield. His relentless efforts to break down the opposition and set up his teammates were qualities Sydney badly lacked. Behind him, Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund held together a defence seldom breached.

The redeeming features for Sydney? There were few, if any. The passing game that coach Ian Crook preaches was laborious at times, though they at least tried to execute it. However, all too frequently play collapsed in the build-up. This was not a fluid performance.

Not having any friendly matches in the past month has clearly hurt the Sky Blues. The lesson here is that a team cannot travel to the league's most hostile venue without being battle-hardened.

Westpac Stadium, under the gloomiest of skies, a torrent of rain and enveloped by that ubiquitous icy wind, is a nasty place. Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has set out his stall to accommodate such conditions. His formation remains tight and they play direct, simple football. It remains highly effective.

But Sydney should know that now. They lost here three times last season. Even with a megastar in the ranks, some things stay the same.

Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs NEW Stats
SYD 1 vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs PER 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
SYD 3 vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5 vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4 vs NEW 1 Stats
ADE 2 vs PER Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs NEW 1 Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2 vs CCM Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL Stats
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
ADE vs SYD Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
BRI 1 vs MCY 3 Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 4 Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
SYD vs VIC Stats
PER 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2 vs CCM 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs BRI Stats
PER 2 vs WEL 1 Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 1 Stats
MCY 1 vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3 vs ADE 2 Stats
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs PER 1 Stats
WSW 1 vs SYD 1 Stats
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 5 vs MCY 1 Stats
NEW 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1 vs PER 2 Stats
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW Stats
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs BRI Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 1 Stats
PER 2 vs NEW Stats
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs CCM 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs SYD 3 Stats
Wed, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 3 vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs VIC Stats
PER 4 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 2 Stats
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1 vs WSW 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs PER 1 Stats
SYD vs ADE 3 Stats
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3 vs BRI 3 Stats
VIC 1 vs NEW Stats
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WSW Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs MCY 5 Stats
BRI vs SYD Stats
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs WEL 3 Stats
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM Stats
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW Stats
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3 vs BRI Stats
CCM 2 vs MCY Stats
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 1 vs ADE 2 Stats
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 7 vs NEW Stats
CCM 1 vs SYD 5 Stats
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 3 vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1 vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
VIC 3 vs MCY Stats
PER 1 vs SYD 3 Stats
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2 vs WEL Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 2 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MCY Stats
NEW 1 vs WSW 1 Stats
SYD 3 vs VIC 3 Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs PER 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD 4 vs CCM 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2 vs NEW 2 Stats
MCY vs PER Stats
Wed, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 1 vs VIC 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3 vs ADE 1 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM Stats
WSW 3 vs SYD 4 Stats
PER 2 vs BRI 2 Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL 3 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2 vs ADE Stats
VIC 1 vs PER 1 Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs MCY Stats
BRI 1 vs WSW Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 4 vs NEW Stats
PER 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD 5 vs BRI 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs NEW 2 Stats
ADE 2 vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 1 vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs CCM 1 Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY 1 vs BRI Stats
PER 3 vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 3 Stats
NEW vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI 6 vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1 vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs VIC 3 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PER 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs NEW 1 Stats
PER vs SYD 3 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE 2 vs BRI 3 Stats
CCM 1 vs WSW Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY vs WEL Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 3 vs CCM 2 Stats
NEW 3 vs SYD 4 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 2 vs ADE 1 Stats
BRI vs VIC 1 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER 3 vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 2 vs NEW 1 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
WSW 1 vs PER 2 Stats
ADE 4 vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL 1 vs SYD 2 Stats
VIC 3 vs CCM 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 28
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 2 vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
WEL vs MCY 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 29
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3 vs MCY Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 4 vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 30
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
VIC 3 vs SYD Stats
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Melbourne Victory 27 15 4 25 53
Sydney FC 27 14 5 17 50
Adelaide United 27 14 9 15 46
Wellington Phoenix 27 14 9 10 46
Melbourne City FC 27 9 10 -5 35
Brisbane Roar 27 10 13 -1 34
Perth Glory 27 14 5 10 50
Central Coast Mariners 27 5 14 -24 23
View all
 
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