Sydney FC missed their trump, leaving Western Sydney marquee Shinji Ono to make jokers of the Sky Blues defence with a cheeky opportunistic goal to give the Wanderers a convincing 2-0 win in front of an Allianz Stadium record A-League crowd of 40,388 on Saturday night.
The Wanderers had leapt to the lead after just 13 minutes through a firm Iacopo La Rocca header into the far netting of Vedran Janjetovic's goal from Ono's pinpoint cross. And, despite having conceded 55 per cent of possession, they made it two when Ono produced another little piece of brilliance.
It was a rabbit-out-of-a-hat job by the Japanese superstar, who chipped the ball over defender Seb Ryall, spun around Ryall's accomplice, Tiago Calvano, swivelled once again for good measure and took a final swipe as he fell to the ground to slide it delicately past Janjetovic on 26 minutes.
"Special and something that we've learnt to expect from Shinji," Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said of the goal. "We know that he's got that. In all the big games last year he always stepped up and was able to provide the magic and that's why he's a special player.
"Our fans love him. We love having him as part of the club and long may that continue."
Ono's game-changing contribution left Sydney FC fans missing even more the influence of Alessandro Del Piero, not to mention Brett Emerton, both of whom were sidelined with injury, detracting a touch from an otherwise magnificent occasion.
"He's coming up to 39 and it's round three," Sky Blues coach Frank Farina said of the Italian. "It was way too much of a risk. He hadn't trained with the squad all week. He was keen towards the end of the week to maybe sit on the bench. But that could have been even more dangerous. You've got to be careful." However, such was the dominance of the Wanderers throughout large stretches of the match, there was little doubt they would grab their first three point outcome of the season.
But for the early stages of the first half and short bursts in the second, the Sky Blues lacked cohesion and spark up front, with Mitch Mallia's pace not utilised to its capacity, nor the trickiness of his replacement in the second half, Yairo Yau. "We lacked a bit up front, a bit of creativity," Farina conceded.
He also talked about the need to cut out mistakes in defence, especially from set pieces, and stressed the need for better passing and decision-making.
Popovic, meanwhile, described his side's performance as "a real professional disciplined display".
There were injury concerns on both sides with Wanderers winger Youssouf Hersi leaving the field at half-time after copping studs in his foot and wholehearted Sydney FC defensive midfielder Rhyan Grant suffering a knee injury.
There was also a swathe of yellow cards handed out by Strebre Delovski, particularly late in the heated encounter.
Amid a pulsating atmosphere, both sides created early chances. The Wanderers attacked through Hersi's right wing while the Sky Blues passing was encouraging in the attacking third.
However, La Rocca's opener gave the Wanderers dominance and they nearly went two up but for Hersi being caught offside just before he put the ball in the net on 14 minutes.
Tempers rose through the middle half. Nicky Carle was lucky to escape caution and, from the resulting free kick, Sydney FC was lucky to escape conceding as a cross glided just over the heads of three Wanderers attackers on the far post.
However, the visitors were clearly on top by this stage and on their next foray downfield, Ono did his great balancing act to score the visitors' second.
Except for a stinging Nikola Petkovic free kick from distance, which smashed into Covic's crossbar on 31 minutes, there was little to indicate Sydney FC might fashion a comeback.
They improved in the second half. But as they pressed, they were caught on the counter and lived on the edge.
"It's great for our fans," Popovic said of the win. "I'm really pleased for them. The atmosphere was unbelievable – as good as anything I've seen."