Phoenix spoils Del Piero's Sydney debut


Alessandro Del Piero could not ignite an underwhelming Sydney FC as it fell 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix at a wet and windy Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Goals in either half to Belgian import Stein Huysegems and 19-year-old striker Louis Fenton were just reward for Phoenix's control and patience.

Wellington turned on a typical welcome for Del Piero with a southerly wind hitting the stadium an hour before kick-off.

The heavy rain and strong winds eased, and Phoenix started strongly in chilly conditions, creating plenty of chances but converting only one to lead 1-0 at half-time.

Sydney lacked cohesion and although former Juventus star and Italian World Cup winner Del Piero showed some nice touches, but there was little for him to work with for much of the first spell.

Belgian import Stein Huysegems provided a genuine goal threat for Phoenix up front, but there were other options in the elusive Benjamin Totori and former Newcastle Jets striker Jeremy Brockie.

Totori hit the woodwork with a screamer after a crisp interchange between Fenton and Brockie, then a Huysegems header forced an excellent save from Sydney goalkeeper Ivan Necevski.

The deadlock was broken just two minutes from half-time when Manny Muscat's through ball found Huysegems, who finished clinically.

Sydney came close soon after, Mitchell Mallia forcing an excellent save from Mark Paston just before the break.

Sydney came out with more intent in the second spell, coach Ian Crook signalling his intent in bringing on young Panama striker Yairo Yau and attacking midfielder Ali Abbas as the hour mark approached.

But Wellington continued to create chances, Paul Ifill drawing an excellent reflex save from Necevski barely a minute after he came on at 60 minutes.

Fenton thudded home a superb diving header with just on 15 minutes left, connecting to a pinpoint cross from Muscat, and Phoenix controlled the closing minutes for a well-earned win.

Crook, who is charge of Sydney for the first time, said Del Piero's class showed through, but was unhappy at his side's poor possession rate.

"I think he showed at times some fabulous quality," Crook said.

"Some of his stuff was fantastic, but we expect that because of who he is and what he is, a top class player.

"We turned the ball over a little bit too much, but the positives for me were that we continued to try and play.

"It's disappointing, full credit to them, they deserved to win the game. But it's been the first time we've had this group playing on the pich playing a meaningful game."

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert afterwards paid tribute to his team's strong defensive effort in tracking Del Piero closely, a role that featured not only defensive midfielder Manny Muscat.

"We talked about it all week... the closest person around Del Piero is the one we're going to engage," he said.

"Manny was there a little bit more than others tonight. He's a terrific player - he nicks things so well in midfield and he's good on his feet. He kept the pace of the game going for us."