A stunning goal from former Young Socceroo captain Terry Antonis has helped Sydney FC conclude a week of turmoil with a battling 2-1 win over the visiting Perth Glory on Saturday night.
In his first start of the season following an eight-month injury absence, Antonis provided a much-needed ray of sunlight for the Sky Blues with a classy strike midway through the second half.
Ranko Despotovic gave the home side an early lead, with Antonis nabbing what proved to be the winner, while the Glory’s Rostyn Griffiths pulled a goal back to set up a tense finish.
On paper this was a match-up between two out-of-form teams. Sydney FC were suffering through a much-publicised drought having secured just one win from their past eight outings, leading to a tough week for coach Frank Farina and the club.
Perth Glory’s record was only marginally better having failed to win any of their past four outings. In truth it was a largely modest fare served up on a greasy surface at Allianz Stadium following a day of drizzle in the Harbour City.
Sydney FC lined up with Antonis who had recently starred with the youth team, while Socceroo Sasa Ognenovski debuted for the Sky Blues after spending the past five years in Korea Republic and Qatar.
A scrappy opening was enlivened only, and somewhat predictably, by some flashes of brilliance from Alessandro Del Piero.
The pressure-valve was released for the home side on 17 minutes with Despotovic impressively turning home his sixth goal in 12 outings. Not for the first time this season the Serbian profited from a superb pass from Del Piero, with the Italian maestro perfectly in sync with the run of his striker.
Rather than embolden the home team, the goal merely served to see a momentum shift towards the visitors.
The crowd of 11,160 then witnessed the rare sight of a team lined up on their own goal line with Perth awarded an indirect free-kick from six yards. Shane Smeltz’s effort, as invariably the case with such little angle to work with, was charged down.
Perth striker Sidnei Sciola Moraes burst into the penalty area shortly after but spurned the opportunity to pull the trigger with the Sydney defence straining and the Brazilian was eventually closed down.
The best opening of the first half, however, fell to the Glory’s Lithuanian striker Darvydas Sernas who blazed over from near the penalty spot.
William Gallas would have had the ball past exposed Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic had he got marginally more purchase on a glancing header from a free-kick.
From the ensuing corner Del Piero, of all people, headed clear off the line as a wickedly whipped-in ball threatened an equaliser.
There was still time for Corey Gameiro to force Danny Vukovic into a save as the gaps continued to appear at either end.
The early signs following the interval were promising for Perth who showed signs of continuing their momentum.
Glory substitute Chris Harold shot produced a finger-tip save from Janjetovic, but the all-important second goal of the contest came from the boot of Antonis on 64 minutes.
The Sydney midfielder dribbled at pace past one defender, before cleverly making space for a clinical curling strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Three minutes later Nebojsa Marinkovic flighted in a perfect free-kick onto the head of Rostyn Griffiths who used his bulk to hold off his markers and deftly guide in his header off the underside of the bar.
The half-chances continued at either end, notably Despotovic seemed set to extend the margin following a goalmouth scramble but Vukovic was alert to the danger with a brave smoother.
Young Sydney defender Aaron Calver was sent off in the dying minutes for a second caution but the home side hung on for three crucial points.
Sydney FC 2 (Ranko Despotovic 17’, Terry Antonis 64’)
Perth Glory 1 (Rostyn Griffiths 67’)
Crowd: 11,160 @ Allianz Stadium