SYDNEY FC staggered over the line to hold out a fast-finishing Melbourne Heart and record a 2-1 win during sapping conditions at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
First-half goals to returning Alessandro Del Piero and Ranko Despotovic got the Sky Blues on their way, in a match that lacked quality and intensity for much of the opening 45.
Michael Mifsud clawed one back for the visitors but it was a butched second-half penalty by Harry Kewell, denying Heart a share of the spoils, that will be one of the big talking points of a disjointed match.
The game was limping towards half-time when Sydney's Italian star took the contest by the scruff of the neck.
Del Piero skipped past two defenders, before eluding another couple on the edge of the box to beat Heart goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne at his near post.
Three minutes later the home side doubled their lead.
An Ali Abbas shot deflected off teammate Joel Chianese, falling to Despotovic whose shot bobbled over a prone Redmayne and into the box, bringing up his third goal in four matches.
Sydney's good fortune didn't end the Sky Blues were lucky to head into the sheds with 11 men. Seb Ryall shown a yellow could easily have seen red for a high foot to the chest of Heart striker Michael Mifsud.
Much of the talk before the match was the first-time face-off between Del Piero and Heart's Aussie star Harry Kewell. But the clash never eventuated with the Italian subbed at half-time and the Heart's skipper brought on at 55'.
Kewell's entry lifted the intensity of the visitors and he had the perfect opportunity to claw one back when Chianese handballed in the box. But the veteran Socceroo got it horribly wrong, skewing his penalty well wide.
It was up to the much-maligned Mifsud to reignite hope in the Heart ranks. A deft touch by the industrious Maltese international on 72' left Vedran Janjetovic stranded and he rounded the Sydney goalkeeper and slotted home to bring up his first for the visitors.
Sydney withstood wave after wave of attacks the best falling to David Williams on 78' when he was one-on-one with the 'Janjetovic who pulled off a brilliant save.
The result sees Sydney move to third on the table whule Heart, now winless in 15 matches, stay rooted at the bottom.
More to follow...