Barely a fortnight after making his first A-League appearance in almost two years, Sydney FC midfielder Jason Culina showed he's once again a force to be reckoned with, coach Frank Farina said.
After appearances off the bench against Melbourne Heart and Adelaide United in the last two weeks, Culina started in Sydney's 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
His influence and leadership in the midfield played a huge part in Sydney's third win of the season, and first under the guidance of Farina.
Culina managed an hour, continuing a promising comeback to the A-League after on-going knee problems and surgery kept him sidelined since January 2011.
With star signing Alessandro Del Piero injured, Culina's influence in running the midfield and at set pieces proved invaluable. He capped off a fine performance by sending in an inch-perfect cross for Sebastian Ryall to head home Sydney's opening goal in the 46th minute.
Farina couldn't be happier to see Culina back on the park.
"He's done it tough. I don't think people realise the full extent of the operations Jason's had," he said.
"For him to come back and perform the way he did today ... it was the Jason of old, and he'll just get better.
"Sixty minutes was most probably his maximum today, especially at the intensity we want to play. Being in the middle of the park is not the easiest of occupations and he did very well."
Farina said Culina and captain Terry Flynn did a superb job organising in the midfield, stepping up in the absence of Del Piero, and other experienced players in Brett Emerton and Terry Antonis, away on Socceroos duty at the East Asian Cup qualifiers in Hong Kong.
"We kept our shape well and it was largely due to their barking and organising the people in front of them," Farina said.
It has crushed Sydney FC twice this season and holds a 10-point break at the top of the A-League, but Ranko Despotovic insists Brisbane Roar could meet its match at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.