Marco Rojas brilliant in Victory's 3-1 win
They may have come to see Alessandro Del Piero, but they left talking about Marco Rojas as Melbourne Victory put the rest of the A-League on notice with a 3-1 mauling of Sydney FC on Saturday night.
The Victory bossed and battered a Sky Blues team which finished the match with nine men in a compelling display at a sold-out AAMI Park.
Rojas scored one goal and had everything but the scoresheet credit on another, while Archie Thompson also netted as the Sky Blues were reduced to the Victory's playthings for most of the contest.
Not helped by Tiago Calvano's send-off on the hour for flinging an outstretched arm to block Leigh Broxham, the Sky Blues were mainly brought undone by a committed Victory midfield display - Broxham, Billy Celeski and Mark Milligan outstanding.
But the silk came from Rojas, who would have impressed scouts from English Premier League club Liverpool and Italian giants Juventus in attendance with a magnificent display in the front third.
The Victory now move into second place ahead of Adelaide United, who lost 3-1 to league leaders Central Coast Mariners on Friday night.
Del Piero was well held for most of the evening as Victory's midfield invaded his aura and bit around his ankles effectively.
Rojas was menacing early and helped put his side a goal up on 24 minutes.
He intercepted a Rhyan Grant backpass, zeroed in on goal, and thumped his finish into the net off Seb Ryall - credited as an own goal to the Sydney FC defender.
The Victory dominated the rest of the half - Sydney forced to reshuffle when they lost Socceroo Brett Emerton midway through with a back-related hamstring injury.
Once Calvano was sent off in the second, Sydney lifted their workrate - their best chances and only goal coming when they were down to 10 men.
They could have even equalised had Joel Griffiths not fluffed a great chance - from a Del Piero through ball - in the 66th minute as he shot meekly across goal.
Thirty seconds later, the Victory were 2-0 up as Thompson found the net.
It was party-time in the 72nd minute as Rojas held off a defender, turned and shot off Adam Griffiths for a goal of pure class.
Joel Griffiths grabbed a consolation on 75 minutes, but Sydney's night turned even worse when fullback Fabio was marched in stoppage time for a second yellow card.
Victory coach Ange Postecoglou believed the performance was close to his side's most complete of the season.
"We're trying to become a dominant force in this league and days like today, you question whether we're up to it or not but I was really pleased," Postecoglou said.
"We really took the game to the opposition which is what I wanted us to do."
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina was left shaking his head with the fact nine cards were issued by referee Chris Beath in a match he felt wasn't dirty.
But he admitted his disappointment was split "60-40" between the officiating and his players' ill-discipline at vital times.
"We should have been playing the way we played and worked the last 25 minutes from the start," Farina said.
"We could do that and create chances with 10 men ... we should do that from the beginning."