|By STEVE ORME
A late equaliser from Yairo Yao has helped Sydney FC salvage a 1-1 draw with arch rivals Melbourne Victory in a memorable 'Big Blue' in front of 22,233 fans at Allianz Stadium.
The Sky Blues were forced to play from behind in the third minute after Mark Milligan completed a sweeping movement from the visitors to score the opening goal against his former club.
It was end-to-end action throughout as Sydney peppered Victory custodian Nathan Coe all night while the Victory were lethal on the counter-attack, forcing Ivan Necevski to produce several first-class saves.
Coe was simply superb for the visitors, saving a penalty attempt from Alessandro Del Piero on the hour before Yao finally found the target for the hosts in the 85th minute.
Del Piero blew a gilt-edged chance a minute later as the two sides were forced to share the points after a high-quality encounter.
The result sees the Sky Blues remain in sixth spot but Frank Farina's men could drop to eighth if Brisbane and Perth both record victories on Sunday, while the Victory remain in third spot.
Milligan's early goal stunned the raucous Sydney crowd.
Archie Thompson unleashed boom youngster Connor Pain down the left wing with a clever flick.
The 19-year-old turned on the after burners and fired the ball across the Sydney goal for a flying Milligan who found the target from close range.
The Sky Blues steadied and started to ask questions of the Victory defence.
Terry Antonis fired the hosts' first shot on target but was denied by a comfortable save from Coe.
Sydney stayed on the attack, Del Piero narrowly missing a free kick from the edge of the box after Coe handled the ball outside the area and was yellow carded in the 17th minute.
Neither side were willing to give an inch with referee Strebre Delovski dishing out three more yellow cards – to Sebastian Ryall, Ali Abbas and Billy Celeski – before the interval.
The hosts were unlucky not to win a penalty when Leigh Broxham handled the ball in the penalty area late in the half.
But Sydney received a let-off of their own moments later when Ryall escaped a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Pain.
Whatever Farina said at the break had an immediate effect on the hosts.
Abbas set the tone with a thunderous shot that just swerved wide one minute in before Del Piero found space in the box and forced a save from Coe on 54 minutes.
Marco Rojas should have doubled the visitors' lead moments later but he was unable to control his first touch when he had only Necevski to beat.
The Sky Blues looked certain to equalise on the hour when the Victory were pinged for a hand ball in the box.
But Coe saved Del Piero's penalty attempt low and to his left to deny the hosts the equaliser.
Del Piero hit the cross bar with a free-kick in the 72nd minute while Rojas had three gilt-edged chances in four minutes but couldn't get past Necevski, who produced two quality one-on-one saves.