NEW signing Ranko Despotovic has handed a 10-man Sydney FC an injury-time winner to defeat Wellington Phoenix 2-1 during a see-sawing match at Allianz Stadium this evening
A wonder strike in the first half from Richard Garcia and a goal to Despotovic sealed all three points for the Sky Blues.
Wellington's Kenny Cunningham looked like bringing a point home for the Kiwi club with a late contribution until Sydney's latest recruit turned the match on its head.
But a big talking point of the game came on 37'.
Sydney will count themselves lucky not to go down to 10 earlier, and concede a penalty in the first-half, when defender Pedj Bojic, sitting on a yellow, appeared to bring down Wellington's Jason Hicks in the box.
The defender didn't escape a second time and was red-carded with about 20 minutes to go, following a clumsy and unnecessary tackle on Reece Caira.
Ernie Merrick's men came into the match still chasing their first victory of the season. The Phoenix boss welcomed back his international stars after a tough and disappointing week of World Cup playoffs and the visitors were quick to press their case.
In contrast it was a sluggish and disjointed start from the home side. It all sprung to life on the half hour with both teams racking up the chances in quick succession..
Sydney's Joel Chianese set up a couple of good opportunities while Phoenix's out-of-sorts striker, Jeremy Brockie muffed his lines, skying a one-on-one with goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.
The breakthrough came on 35' when a decoy run by Ali Abbas freed Garcia - fresh from a head knock - to cut inside and let loose with a thunderbolt that fizzed into the far top corner.
A few minutes later the Nix's midfield maestro Carlos Hernandez fired off a long range bullet that tested Janjetovic.
Abbas on the edge of the box drilled one low and hard and just wide of the far post but it was his skipper Alessandro Del Piero that brought the crowd to the edge of their seats, showing exquisite control to chest down the ball and poke it towards goal, with only some sharp work by Phoenix goalkeeper Glenn Moss denying the Italian.
It was more comfortable for Sydney, initially, after the break and on 66' Frank Farina went to his bench to bring on his signing, the veteran Despotovic which would prove decisive later.
On 72' Bojic was sent packing and the Phoenix, smelling blood, put the home side under sustained pressure and it was only a matter of time before the weight of chances told.
Cunningham gave hope to the visitors when he put the ball in the back of the net on 88' but it was ruled offside. He didn't make the mistake the second time, the Costa Rican redirecting Hernandez' corner into the near post on 90'.
But just when it looked destined for a draw Sydney stole all three points on 94'. Despotovic receiving the cross and knocking it into the bottom left corner to break Phoenix hearts.
The result sees Farina's men continue their march up the ladder to third with three matches in the round still to play. Meanwhile, Phoenix sit second from the bottom with a game in hand.
More to follow...