|By ADAM LUCIUS
Under-fire Sydney FC coach Ian Crook has confronted angry fans in a heated exchange minutes after the Sky Blues' painful 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
Several Sydney FC supporters gathered on the fence to abuse Crook for replacing superstar Alessandro Del Piero and goalscorer Yairo Yau midway through the second half of the A-League match, with Sydney up 2-0 at Allianz Stadium at the time.
Victory scored three goals in the final 12 minutes to rip the game from Sydney's grasp and add to a forgettable week for the Sky Blues, who were coming off a 7-2 loss to Central Coast.
Asked about the clash with fans, Crook said: "They were having a go at me for bringing them off.
"They see Yairo come off and see Alessandro come off - goalscorer and someone who can change a game - but people don't know the situation that's gone before that and the reasons they are coming off.
"Yairo was calling to the bench to get him off, he was gone, and Alessandro had just the one session all week and it was always the plan [for him to come off].
"That's the way it is. I defend the boys all day long."
Sydney welcomed Del Piero, Pascal Bosschaart and Fabio back from injury but Crook admitted they were underdone.
He said: "We took a risk before the game with certain bodies.
"Full credit to them for getting through what they did but we just ran out of legs at the end.
"Just at the time we needed certain bodies on there we had to take them off.
"I'm gutted for the boys. They put everything in and on the night it just wasn't good enough in terms of getting a result."
The loss adds to the pressure on Crook, who holds a 2-4 win-loss record after six rounds.
His job is safe for now but the Englishman will need to turn things around quickly.
"You lose at this club and straight away people question you. That's just part of it," Crook said.
"Do I blame myself for losing tonight? No, we take that on collectively."
Bosschaart, who scored his first professional league goal after 16 years to put Sydney 2-0 up, was quick to defend Crook from criticism.
The Dutchman is confident his team can climb out of the hole that has left them ahead of just two clubs on the table.
"We have to keep working hard. We have to stay together as a group - coaching staff, all the players," he said.
"It's disappointing to have two losses in a row. It's Sydney [FC] - the biggest club in the A-League - so there is always pressure.
"I still believe that the people we have [in charge] are really good for the club."