Western Sydney Wanderers coach Carl Robinson has hailed the value of Scott McDonald on and off the field after the former Socceroo netted the winner on debut in a hotly-contested Sydney derby.
The 37-year-old McDonald headed home the decisive goal on Saturday with virtually his first touch in red-and-black to give the western Sydney club a season-reviving 3-2 win.
Sydney FC dominated an action-packed contest everywhere but on the scoresheet, though it was the home side who held sway throughout after early goals from Bruce Kamau and Mitch Duke.
The Sky Blues missed a penalty in the dying minutes when Bobo skied his effort over and only the crossbar denied Anthony Caceres a spectacular equaliser for the visitors deep into added time.
The defending champions scored at either end of the second half but it was McDonald's header, nine minutes after coming on midway through the second half, which proved decisive.
"Scotty is a terrific footballer, understands the game at certain moments and he knows what is required at certain moments," Robinson said.
"He knows if we are up with two or three minutes to go, how to take a foul, how to win a free-kick, and that is how young players learn.
"You look at the best players in the league that make a big impact - you talk about (Milos) Ninkovic, (Diego) Castro, (Alessandro) Diamanti - age is just a number.
"Scotty has come in and he is a big voice, a big character and I love to have big characters in the locker room."
The result ended a six-match winless run for the Wanderers and suddenly elevates them back into finals contention.
Draws for several of the contenders this weekend leaves the Wanderers sharing sixth spot on the ladder alongside Western United.
Robinson stopped short of calling the win a turning point, but hailed both his side's character and discipline in sticking to a "slightly adjusted" tactical plan for the derby.
"We wobbled a bit but we didn't break," Robinson said.
"We have beaten the best team in the A-League during the past two years, so the players deserve a lot of credit."
It was a costly loss for the champions, who now trail leaders Melbourne City by four points with the final month of the regular season looming.
"I thought we dominated from start to finish, just with a couple of lapses which led to their goals, two counter-attacks and the corner from which we conceded in the second half," Sydney coach Steve Corica said.
It was an action-packed, red-blooded contest at Bankwest Stadium with the 20,000-strong crowd - the biggest in Sydney since COVID-19 - reviving memories of the early days of the A-League's biggest derby.
"The atmosphere was great, it is a great stadium and it (the crowd size) was very encouraging," Corica added.