A brace of goals from marquee man John Aloisi helped Sydney FC make a winning start to their A-League campaign, with the stand-in skipper steering the Sky Blues to a 3-2 victory over North Queensland Fury in tonight’s historic round-one clash in Townsville.
Sydney jumped out to a two goal lead in the first half but were forced to survive a brave fightback from the competition debutants before eventually claiming all three points, thanks to a late Aloisi spot penalty.
After a strong performance in the pre-season, any lingering questions about the striker’s scoring ability were answered immediately when he found the net after only three minutes of play.
A dangerous Robbie Fowler free kick at the other end of the field was saved brilliantly by goalkeeper Clint Bolton and Sydney quickly launched a counterattack. After receiving the ball on the break, young midfielder Kofi Danning picked out Aloisi on the left-hand edge of the area, and the veteran delivered a clinical strike across the face of goal to open the scoring in style.
The visitors continued to dominate all aspects of the game and almost extended their lead 11 minutes in when Slovakian midfielder Karol Kisel fired wide after creating space for himself on the edge of the area.
It seemed a question of when, not if the Sky Blues would score again - and just before the half-hour they did double their lead, through the precocious talents of Danning.
A Stephan Keller free kick picked out the 18-year-old on the chest and, after controlling the ball beautifully, Danning turned his defender, took a touch, then fired home a powerful finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Up 2-0, Sydney looked in complete control of the contest heading towards half-time, but just before the break the Moore Park men were reminded they hadn’t won anything yet.
A Fury corner against the run of play provided an opportunity with four minutes remaining, and Englishman Rostyn Griffiths out-manoeuvred the defence and headed home on the near post to give his team hope as they went to the sheds.
Vitezslav Lavicka’s men lifted their intensity after the restart and continued to look dangerous, but a mistimed tackle from Shannon Cole proved costly for Sydney in the 59th minute of the match.
Scrambling back in defence, Cole clipped Jason Spagnuolo in the box, and referee Stebre Delovski had no hesitation blowing the penalty, setting the stage for Robbie Fowler. The former Liverpool legend strode to the spot and with little fuss put the contest back on level terms with 30 minutes remaining.
It was another defensive lapse that handed Sydney what would be a match-winning advantage. A charging Alex Brosque was brought down by North Queensland 'keeper Paul Henderson, and Aloisi kept a cool head to score the penalty and reclaim the lead with 17 minutes remaining.
The Fury threw men forward in the closing stages in a desperate bid to claw back the deficit, but the Sky Blues’ defence held firm to ensure all three points would stay with Sydney.
“It was a good start for the team to win but we would have liked to have played better,” said Aloisi after the match. “It’s good to get off to a good start, to get scoring goals straight away, and let’s hope it’s a big year for the team.”
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