Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero capitalised on a couple of howlers from Newcastle’s Zenon Caravella to lead Sydney FC to a 2-0 home win over the Jets in the opening A-League game of the season.
Del Piero, who notched 14 goals in his maiden A-League campaign last season, scored one and made one for Joel Chianese at Allianz Stadium, but Caravella played a part in both.
After 36 minutes, Del Piero worked his way into the penalty area, but appeared to have lost possession to Connor Chapman only to be gifted it back when midfielder Caravella ran into Chapman.
The veteran striker picked his way through what little defence was left and expertly slid the ball across goalkeeper Mark Birighitti into the far corner of the net.
Caravella, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week and is the nephew of Sydney coach Frank Farina, was also culpable for the second goal on the hour.
He was dispossessed by Del Piero, who fed the ball to Chianese who lashed a powerful shot into the net.
Sydney created far more chances against a Newcastle side lacking penetration up front, with strikers Emile Heskey, Michael Bridges and Joey Gibbs all on the injury list.
The Jets had a couple of decent chances after Chianese’s goal, but rarely exposed Sydney’s new-look rearguard, which included three newcomers to the club.
Adam Taggart flashed a strong header just over the bar and Craig Goodwin’s free-kick was saved by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.
Del Piero helped enliven the game after a dull first quarter.
Chianese had a shot blocked by Birighitti in a one-on-one situation created by a Del Piero pass.
Former Newcastle player Matt Thompson almost marked his Sydney debut with a goal when his 20 metre shot crashed off the crossbar and then bounced off Birighitti’s back.
Becoming progressively more involved, Del Piero sent a wicked 20 metre drive just over the bar a few seconds before halftime.
The Jets showed some nice touches early on through Nathan Burns, James Virgili and Craig Goodwin, but didn’t create any good first half chances.
Sydney coach Frank Farina described his team’s work ethic as sensational and was happy with their performance, especially given what he perceived as negative media comments about their prospects.
“Before the ball was even kicked there was a lot of pressure on us, myself, the team,” Farina said.
“It’s a good start, that’s about all.”
He said Sydney still had a lot of work to do, but looked solid defensively and described the debut of former Red Star Belgrade centre back Nikola Petkovic as outstanding.
He was quick to spread the praise across his side rather than focus on Del Piero.
“I thought he was very good tonight, but more so I think collectively we were good,” Farina said.
“There wasn’t a player out there that didn’t pull his weight or didn’t work hard.”
Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond said the Jets created their own misfortune with both goals and lamented his side’s inability to make inroads down the wings and build on a promising start.
“Early on we seemed to start to get on top and we looked extremely dangerous,” van Egmond said.
“But that comes back and bites you if you don’t start to take those chances.”