Sydney FC 3 Melbourne Victory 2
What a feeling: Sydney FC let off some steam in a morale-boosting win. Photo: Getty Images
After three straight losses and with pressure mounting on coach Frank Farina, the ''Big Blue'' had the potential to become the ''big boo'' for Sydney FC. Instead, the struggling Sky Blues received a standing ovation from the faithful, who were enraptured by their team's remarkable 10-man effort to defeat arch-rivals Melbourne Victory.
Down a man after just 25 minutes when defender Marc Warren was marched for a professional foul - which resulted in a Melbourne goal - Sydney produced the kind of whole-hearted effort that could finally help bury their awful start to the season.
Ali Abbas and Tiago Calvano of Sydney FC celebrate. Photo: Getty Images
The Sky Blues had not found the net since round one, but peculiar things tend to happen in clashes between these sides and this match, in front of 18,784 fans, certainly maintained the trend. Inside the first 35 minutes the Sky Blues seized on a Melbourne defensive mistake to go up 1-0, doubled their lead through defender Seb Ryall's nose, conceded a goal two-and-a-half minutes later, had a player sent off and conceded an equaliser.
Then came the punchline: 10 minutes before half-time, birthday boy Alessandro Del Piero drew a penalty from Pablo Contreras, which the Italian great buried to give Sydney back the lead, which they would hold for the rest of the match.
Amid the first half madness, referee Peter Green handed out yellow cards to Victory players Adama Traore, Leigh Broxham and Contreras, as well as Sydney defender Nikola Petkovic.
The second half was goalless, but no less tense, with both sides producing numerous chances in a nail-biting 45 minutes. But the scene was set from the outset when, after two minutes, Richard Garcia pounced on a wayward Melbourne defensive header from goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic's goal kick. The Sky Blues forward beat Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe to the ball and put it into the open goal.
The second goal was a mixed blessing for Ryall. From a corner, Victory defender Jason Geria headed the ball away but it cannoned into the fullback's nose and ricocheted in for a goal. Ryall was bloodied and needed a clean up - and while his side was a man short, Connor Pain exploited the left wing and crossed for Archie Thompson to tap in for Victory's opener.
Sydney managed to blow their lead in style when Warren was beaten by Pain and couldn't resist grabbing the attacker's shirt, leaving the referee seeing red. James Troisi's strike from the resulting free kick deflected off Ryall past a flailing Janjetovic to make it 2-2.
However, the desperate Sky Blues rose again when Del Piero held his ground inside the penalty area and Contreras couldn't help but test his luck by trying to jump over him, only to present the Italian with a penalty. He doesn't miss those.
Sydney played the second half with Garcia alone up front but it seemed to help them play better football, looking to work the ball up the field, pass by pass, and making the ball work for them.
They were opened up at times. Janjetovic atoned for some first-half blunders with a fine save early in the second from an on-target Traore skimmer. And, on the hour, Thompson might have put away a gilt-edged chance. But Sydney stayed alive.
Pedj Bojic made one last superb cover tackle to end the match on a high for the home side.