Records tumble as Sydney embarrass Phoenix

SEBASTIAN HASSETT
Last updated 12:26 20/01/2013

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What a difference a week, a brilliant new striker and a clearing of the air can make.

Within a six-day period, Sydney FC have gone from sitting last, seemingly on the of brink of a dressing room mutiny and defeat against Melbourne Heart to now believing that anything is possible.

Silverware? Surelynot. But on the face of this performance, and with one of the world's greatest ever players in magnificent form, why not?

And why, the question must be posed, have Sydney not been able to play like this more often this season? Not just in goals, but in fluidity, energy and intent. It all clicked at Moore Park on Saturday and it was spectacular.

Records tumbled everywhere. This was Sydney's highest score ever, their biggest winning margin, the most goals Wellington have conceded and the first time Alessandro Del Piero - or any Sydney player - has scored four goals in a match.

It would be too easy to put Sydney's victory down to the arrival of Joel Griffiths, but he might have been on to something during the week when he described himself as the ''last piece of the puzzle''. Prophetic words, those.

When you've already got Del Piero, Jason Culina and Brett Emerton on board, you've got to have a decent chance. But Griffiths has added an explosive, uncontrollable element.

Not only that but because he occupies the true striker's role, Del Piero doesn't have to. And because he works his proverbial socks off, Del Piero doesn't have to.

That means the Italian can stay in his preferred role, between the striker and the midfield, and play his natural game. He scored four here - and also laid on the assist for Griffiths' opener.

With nine goals to his name this season, Sydney might want to think about cornering the Italian the next time he comes to training, and lock the door. They should force a contract into his face and a pen into his hand. He can't be allowed to leave in May. Enough said.

Nor can Griffiths, and he's only played one game - 65 minutes in fact. But he has everything the Sky Blues have lacked in attack this season and will only get better the longer he spends with Del Piero. He's not even match-fit but that's the difference when you inject players of elite class.

His goal to open the match was textbook: reading Del Piero's through ball, he showed all the poise of a seasoned finisher to tap the ball past Mark Paston before a collision ensued. That was all of 11 minutes in.

Sydney would score another four in the next 28 minutes. They'd be lucky to score four goals in 28 hours the way they've played for much of this season.

Del Piero's goals from open play were all touches of genius. His first saw him dumbfound Ben Sigmund, the second saw him leave the fleet-footed Leo Bertos flat-footed. Both were finished with that exquisite trademark: a curling effort beyond the reaches of the keeper. First with the left foot, then the right, if you don't mind.

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His final goal of the afternoon was set up by Ali Abbas - the very teammate who he busted up with the week before. Del Piero steadied and his effort, somewhat theatrically, clipped the underside of the bar before going in.

It seems pointless to mention, but the penalty he converted shouldn't have been given. It was a howling decision from Kris Griffiths-Jones to penalise Andrew Durante for a non-existent challenge on Culina - at least it mattered nought in the final outcome. Nor did Sigmund's late consolation, cancelled out by Yairo Yau , who read fellow substitute Blake Powell's flick to perfection.

Yes, Sydney were splendid. But Wellington were poorer than words can adequately describe. The team that bruised the Sky Blues on the opening day of the season shouldn't have bothered turning up here.

Having had owner Gareth Morgan run a very public rule over training during the week, the gallows were already being set up for Ricki Herbert. The noose is now hanging around his neck.

Will that bother Sydney? Fat chance. They're now nipping at the heels of the top six and with a fresh breeze suddenly in their sail, nothing will feel beyond them.

Not even their next task: Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Australia Day. Just try counting the Sky Blues out now.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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