Alessandro Del Piero scored twice in the first half, including a sublime, free kick to guide Sydney FC to a 4-1 A-League triumph over Wellington Phoenix in wet conditions on in Sydney.
The former Juventus man laid on the assist for Seb Ryall’s second half goal on Sunday which spurred on three goals in five minutes before Wellington clawed their way back through a Carlos Hernandez penalty but had no answer for a delightful deep volley from Ali Abbas.
The win, Sydney's eighth at home of the season, gives them a three-point buffer over Newcastle - putting them in the box set to make the top six. The result also eliminates the New Zealand franchise from finals contention.
A pitch inspection at 4.30pm gave the game the go ahead after consistent rain during the afternoon and the game kicked off in pitch conditions but they did improve slightly.
Griffiths-Jones was the focus of attention, along with Del Piero, in the first half in awarding the penalty for Sydney to open the scoring before a clash of the two teams could have seen further action aside from three yellow cards.
Del Piero’s second goal in particular, a free kick right near the halt-time mark from four metres out from the left edge junction of the ‘D,’ showed a touch of class but there were major doubts over the 32nd minute penalty which lead to the second goal.
With Manny Muscat suspended Ernie Merrick promoted midfield maestro Carlos Hernandez whilst Frank Farina elevated Milos Dimitrijevic to the starting eleven with Matt Thompson dropping to the bench.
Not to be perturbed by the conditions, which included numerous pool of water, both sides attacked with gusto early with Del Piero via a header and Wellington striker Brockie looking lively[H1] .
Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss was called upon to save a strike from Del Piero on ten minutes just after a deflected Hernandez free kick was nabbed by Sydney ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic.
Four minutes later desperate Sky Blue defending saw Janjetovic fall on the ball only centimetres from the goal to snuff out a play started near halfway by Hernandez, the Costa Rican had switched the play to Brockie who cut inside the box for his shot to bobble in the water before Sasa Ognenovski and Seb Ryall came together only for Janjetovic to close down and Phoneix follow-up.
As the rain eventually halted Moss was forced into a double save after 25 minutes when first he blocked Joel Chianese’s attempt, after he was played in by Del Piero, and then grabbed the second chance from Dimitrijevic
A firey few minutes saw Del Piero slot home the 33rd minute penalty before Janjetovic took exception to two Wellington players who attempted to strike home his bobbled attempt to save Hernandez’s free kick from near the left sideline.
For the penalty Del Piero was fouled outside of the area by Brockie but took a tumble into the box which convinced Griffiths-Jones to point to the spot and the 39 year-old coolly slotted home the spot kick.
Two minutes later after a goal-mouth fracas, which at one stage split into two mini dust-ups, Sydney’s Matt Jurman and Ben Sigmund of Wellington were both issued yellow tickets.
Janjetovic joined them in the book after the fourth official, Matthew Cropper, tipped Griffiths-Jones off about an apparent punch from the 26 year-old.
Twelve minutes later Sigmund, conceded a foul on Sydney’s Richard Garcia, in the danger territory and Del Piero drove the ball over the visiting defence into the top left corner to double the lead. Sigmund could have considered to himself lucky to stay on the park with the clumsy foul toeing the line with the referee after his earlier booking.
World Cup winner Del Peiro almost struck again from a free kick in the corresponding position to his earlier free kick eight minutes into the second stanza but the corner of the upright saved the visitors.
Three minutes later Wellington pulled one back when substitute Jason Hicks laid on a ball for Brockie who was fouled in the area by Nikola Petkovic and Hernandez had no problem with thumping the penalty home.
But the joy was short-lived by Wellington as a great team goal, finished by a Ryall-del Piero one-two, restored the home side’s two-goal lead before a wonder-volley from midfielder Abbas, near the left edge of the penalty area on the hour mark put Sydney up by three.
To add to the controversy over the first half penalty Del Piero was booked for diving in the 68th minute when he clipped Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante after a good attacking move by Sydney.
Six minutes later Del Piero had the chance for other free kick master-class but missed to the left before Phoenix substitute Tyler Body nearly snuck home a ball from close to the byline only to be denied by the posts.
Sydney seem assured of sixth spot given Newcastle will have to beat Adelaide by at least three goals on Friday night before Sydney host Perth Glory on Sunday.
Sydney FC 4 (Del Piero 33 (p) 45, Ryall 57, Abbas 60)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Hernandez 55)
Crowd: 10,148 @ Allianz Stadium