Sydney rallies to steal Perth's glory
Sydney FC came back from a first-half drubbing and survived a strong penalty appeal to beat 10-man Perth Glory 2-1 in a hard-fought match at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Alessandro Del Piero had a disappointing game by his standards but fellow marquee Brett Emerton stepped up with a commanding display and scored the winning goal with an audacious chip.
Del Piero's passing was not as sharp as it has been and in the second half he looked tired.
It emerged afterwards that he was close to being rested for the game due to troublesome hamstrings but the Italian star insisted on playing.
He was even asked by Ian Crook in the second half if he wanted to be replaced but he told the coach he wanted to stay on the field.
"I had a problem with both hamstrings but I wanted to play on and win the game," Del Piero said.
"That's why I said to him 'I'm Okay'."
It was Sydney's second straight win after it accounted for Western Sydney Wanderers in the previous round.
Sydney is now joint fourth in the table with Perth.
Glory was the first team to settle down and Sydney goalkeeper Ivan Necevski did well to block a shot on the turn from the lively Travis Dodd who was immaculately served by Scott Jamieson.
Seventeen minutes in Perth took the lead after Dodd was allowed to roam free into the penalty area and the striker coolly placed the ball beyond Necevski's reach.
Sydney replied with a slick pass from Del Piero to Paul Reid but the holding midfielder's firm drive was turned to corner by Danny Vukovic.
From the resultant kick Mitch Mallia headed fractionally wide when he should have done better.
Perth however was far more organised and composed in midfield and Sydney could not quite get going.
The half ended with Glory and playmaker Liam Miller well on top of a team that lacked ideas.
The first signs of Sydney's frustration emerged soon after the restart when Del Piero remonstated with Glory captain Jacob Burns after a challenge from the the hard man.
The match took a dramatic turn shortly afterwards when Steve Pantelidis was sent off after he brought down Emerton, who had broken clear.
Del Piero - who else - took the penalty and scored off the post.
The contest turned on its head after 70 minutes when Emerton cheekly chipped Vukovic after Miller uncharacteristically gave the ball away.
Perth's 10 men threw everything at Sydney and claimed a penalty late on when the ball appeared to hit Rhyan Grant's outstretched arm but referee Peter Green ignored Glory's hot protests.
Crook paid tribute to his players' determination but conceded Perth was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the dying stages of the match.
"We made our own luck today but to be honest with you I only saw a little it of the incident on the big screen and if I were sitting in Fergie's (Perth coach Ian Ferguson) position then I would say it was a penalty," Crook said.
"I don't think Rhyan deliberately handled it but the rule says if your arms are apart from your body and the ball hit you then it's a pen."
A crowd of 22,128 watched the match.