Del Piero stars as Sydney FC back into top-six

CRAIG KERRY
Last updated 22:29 22/02/2014

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Italian maestro Alessandro Del Piero pulled the strings on Saturday as Sydney FC retained their place in the A-League top six with a 2-0 win over the Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium.

Del Piero found an unmarked Sasa Ognenovski running into the box with a corner kick on 60 minutes and the defender's header was clinical.

Del Piero, likely in his last match in Newcastle, then earned a penalty and converted it in the 72nd minute. The 39-year-old ran towards goal and drew the foul from centre-back Taylor Regan, who stuck his leg out to give the crafty former Juventus star every chance to secure the spot-kick.

Sydney kept their place in the six with their second win on the trot, which came after they were booed from the field by fans following a 3-0 loss to Adelaide.

Sydney coach Frank Farina said it was "a huge three points for us" after a tumultuous period for the club and praised his players for backing up their 2-1 win over Perth.

"I've always had the belief we could fight our way out of the situation we were in, and all the bombs that were being thrown the last two, three, from all angles.

"I thought our players showed great character. Last week was must-win and, to back it up this week, shows the character in our club."

However, an angry Farina spent most of the post-match media conference defending his club's medical staff over figures on injuries to players this season released by the Professional Footballers Association this week.

For Newcastle, the loss was another blow to their fading finals hopes and came after a morale-boosting 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.

Former Socceroo David Carney made his first appearance for the Jets and striker Joel Griffiths also came off the bench in his return from suspension.

Coach Clayton Zane was happy with the overall performance but said his new-look forward line lacked chemistry and struggled against Sydney's physical presence in defence.

"We feel a little bit deflated in the dressing room now because it was a game where I thought we played some good stuff.

"The one thing we did miss today was in that front third. We lacked a bit of imagination.

"We need to do more work with our front four players and how we can unlock defences."

Sydney marginally had the better of a goalless first half, creating the best chance when Ranko Despotovic ran onto a through ball in the 30th minute only to be denied by Jets goalkeeper Mark Birighitti.

Adam Taggart and James Virgili were wide with shots for Newcastle and Ognenovski hit a header straight at Birighitti in the 36th minute.

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In the second half, Ruben Zadkovich failed to put away a golden opportunity, while Griffiths proved a spark for Newcastle and the 12,449 fans after coming on for Emile Heskey in the 61st minute.

Sydney FC 2 (Sasa Ognenovski 60m, Alessandro Del Piero 73m pen) Newcastle Jets 0 at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 12,449. Referee: Strebre Delovski

- AAP

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