Kiwi curse strikes in 2-0 loss to Wellington

Sydney FC coach Ian Crook gave star recruit Alessandro Del Piero glowing praise after an underdone Sydney FC team was struck by its Kiwi curse again, going down 2-0 in the opening round against Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Sydney FC coach Ian Crook gave star recruit Alessandro Del Piero glowing praise after an underdone Sydney FC team was struck by its Kiwi curse again, going down 2-0 in the opening round against Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium tonight.

A goal in each half was enough for Wellington to consign the Sky Blues to their 6th loss in eight matches against the Phoenix across the Tasman but Crook described Del Piero as “first class” and preached calm as the Sky Blues re-shape the way they play.

“I thought Alessandro was fantastic to be honest and he showed some moments of class that underline what a special player he is,” Crook said. “He did that just two weeks after getting off the plane and it will only improve as he begins to gel with the rest of the team.

“Tonight we gave away too much possession in midfield, particularly in the first half, but we are trying to change the way we play and keep possession and I was proud of the way the team continued to try and play.

“That was the first time we have had a lot of those guys on the field together so we-ll get better, much better, and that starts with Newcastle at home next Saturday.”

Crook named Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero as one of five Sky Blues debutantes for the match, starting alongside Fabio, Adam Griffiths, Trent McClenahan and Kruno Lovrek.

Crook was also true to his pre season statements with exciting youngsters Joel Chianese and Mitch Mallia giving Sydney FC pace in the front third.

The match started under grey skies after a pre match deluge and the slippery pitch made it difficult for both sides to get any continuity although Ivan Necevski was forced into an 8th minute save when he moved brilliantly to his right to deny Alex Smith.

Del Piero showed some of the sublime skill that saw him win the World Cup with Italy in 2006 in a string debut and he created space in the 13th minute but his shot from the edge of the penalty area went over the crossbar.

Wellington striker Benjamin Totori struck the crossbar and Sky Blues defender Trent McClenahan flashed a header wide from a corner as the teams settled into the match but Wellington did shade Sydney FC in the first term.

The Sky Blues gave away too much possession in midfield and it ultimately led to the first goal of the game when a quick turnover allowed Wellington striker Stein Huysegems to run onto a through ball and beat the advancing Necesvki in the 43rd minute.

A late flurry saw Mallia force a save out of Phoenix ‘keeper Mark Paston but the Sky Blues went to the sheds 1-0 down.

Crook wasted little time in changing things after the break, making a double change to inject Yairo Yau and Ali Abbas into the match on 59 minutes with Terry Antonis and Lovrek making way.

Wellington went 2-0 ahead in the 75th minute when teenager Louis Fenton capped his Phoenix debut by scoring with a diving header after Sydney FC once again turned the ball over in midfield.

Sydney enjoyed a lot of possession in the later stages, as they did at times in the first half, but could not create anything to drag themselves back into the game with Wellington snaring all three points to start the season.

Sydney FC-s focus now switches to Allianz Stadium next Saturday afternoon (13 October) when the Sky Blues take on the Newcastle Jets for Alessandro Del Piero-s home debut in front of what is looming a bumper crowd. Sydney FC v Newcastle. Alessandro Del Piero v Emile Heskey. Does it get any bigger? Be at Allianz Stadium for the 5.30pm kick off on Saturday to find out!

Wellington Phoenix 2 (Stein Huysegems 43, Louis Fenton 75) d Sydney FC 0 Westpac Stadium Referee: Peter Green Crowd: 12,057

Sydney FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Fabio, 7. Brett Emerton, 8. Adam Griffiths, 10. Alessandro Del Piero, 14. Mitch Mallia, 15. Terry McFlynn (c), 16. Joel Chianese (2. Sebastian Ryall ‘79), 17. Terry Antonis (22. Ali Abbas ‘59), 18. Trent McClenahan, 19. Kruno Lovrek (21. Yairo Yau ‘59). Subs not used: 20. Vedran Janjetovic (gk) Yellow cards: Terry Antonis 19, Terry McFlynn 46.

Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark Paston (gk), 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Tony Lochhead, 6. Alex Smith, 7. Leo Bertos, 9. Benjamin Totori (8. Paul Ifill ‘62), 10. Stein Huysegems (28. Ricardo Clarke ‘88), 11. Jeremy Brockie, 16. Louis Fenton (12. Tyler Boyd ‘76), 18. Ben Sigmund, 22. Andrew Durante. Sub not used: 20. Glen Moss (gk) Yellow cards: Jeremy Brockie 69.