Alessandro del Piero scored four goals against Wellington. Image courtesy of fifa.com/Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
The rivalry between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC has been known as the Big Blue since the A-League’s inception, but the upcoming Australia Day clash on Saturday was in danger of becoming a damp squib given the latter’s disastrous season so far. But that all changed in the blink of an eye last weekend when marquee man Alessandro del Piero roared to life with four goals in a 7-1 demolition of Wellington.
All of a sudden, the Sky Blues sit just one point outside the top six after spending part of the season languishing at the bottom of the table. The caning of the Phoenix came a week after a 2-1 home win over Melbourne Heart and a 2-2 draw in Perth with Glory. While del Piero has been good throughout the campaign, Jason Culina made a welcome return from injury late last year, while the signing of Joel Griffiths could be crucial. He scored on debut last week, after transferring from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua where he was playing alongside superstars Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. He is under an injury cloud for the game, though, as is his brother Adam Griffiths and Rhyan Grant.
Frank Farina’s side travels to Melbourne for the second clash between these teams on Saturday. Sydney FC should have taken the three points after establishing a two-goal lead just after half-time , but three Victory goals in the last fifteen minutes stunned and silenced the Sydney Football Stadium crowd. It was Melbourne’s first win in the Big Blue since October 2010, with three draws and a 1-0 Sydney victory sandwiched in between.
Melbourne has arguably the strongest home record in the competition. Victory’s only loss was in the first round against crosstown rival Heart, and since then Ange Postecoglou’s squad has won five and drawn three at AAMI Park and Etihad Stadium. Adelaide United is just two points ahead of Victory in second spot on the ladder, so the race is on to earn a week off at the start of the finals.
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