Alessandro Del Piero took three steps, struck the ball with his right foot, watched it sail up and over the wall, drop quickly and curve away from Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Ben Kennedy to smack into the back of the net.
The 37-year-old leapt into the air, pumped his right fist and veered off towards the sidelines and was mobbed by his teams mates as they rushed to celebrate the Italian’s first A-League goal in the 26th minute of his home debut for Sydney FC.
Unfortunately for the more than 35,000 who had turned up to see Del Piero, the 25-metre goal, his driving runs late in the second half and clever passing, it was not enough as Sydney crashed to a 3-2 loss to the Jets.
“Not enough, but it was a start,” Del Piero said about his goal in a pitchside interview. “I want to score more goals, I hope.”
Despite Sydney’s loss, the characteristic free kick, which he had won when he was brought down by Tiago Calvano, was ample demonstration Del Piero had not lost any of the touch that drove him through 19 seasons with Juventus and convinced Sydney to pay him a reported $2.05-million a year to secure his services.
Administrators have positioned Del Piero as a talisman for the A-League in the hope he will raise the profile of the sport amongst fans, the media and businesses in a crowded sporting marketplace.
He had made his debut for Sydney last week in Wellington, but the twice A-League champions looked out of sorts against the Phoenix, who won the match 2-0 as they choked off the Italian’s supply of ball.
Del Piero had said after the game it would take a little time for him to gel with his team mates, having only arrived in Australia three weeks earlier and not having had few preseason matches together.
On Saturday, the 2006 World Cup winner had a greater input but it was not enough to help his team to victory.
Ryan Griffiths and former England international Emile Heskey had taken advantage of confusion in the Sydney defence to give the visitors a 2-1 half time lead.
Craig Goodwin extended Newcastle’s advantage in the 62nd minute before Sydney substitute Blake Powell gave the home crowd hope of snatching an unlikely draw as Del Piero and Brett Emerton drove forward but it was not enough.
Del Piero again appeared frustrated, remonstrating with his team mates, though he said afterwards that there had been some improvements particularly in the second half when he and Emerton took greater responsibility.
“We are not happy because we fight but we did not start to play until later [in the game],” he said.
“We have to do better for the next game. I think yes [there were improvements], but not from the first minute.
“It took us to score the goal before we started to play and we have to improve on that.
“We will watch the game two or three times to see what has happened...and for sure we will play better and hopefully we will win again.”
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