Sydney (AFP) – Sydney FC struck an early blow in the defence of their A-League title on the opening weekend of the season with a hard-fought win over the team they beat in last year’s grand final.
Graham Arnold’s side enjoyed a record-breaking season last year, finishing with 66 points from 20 wins and just one defeat in 27 games.
It culminated in a gripping shootout win over Melbourne Victory in the grand final, and they rubbed more salt in the wounds with a 1-0 triumph over their arch-rivals on Saturday.
An own goal from defender Thomas Deng early in the second half was all the Sky Blues needed in a confident show in front of nearly 25,000 fans at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
Resolute defending ensured that a late onslaught from Melbourne — who have now lost five in a row to Sydney — was to no avail.
“I thought we were at about 30 percent of our capabilities,” said Arnold.
“We had three new players at the back and it’s taken them time to gel but defensively we were outstanding, overall it was a good grinding performance.”
Western Sydney Wanderers, reeling after coach Tony Popovic quit last week with immediate effect to work at Turkish club Karabukspor, taking his two assistants with him, responded with a 2-1 win.
With temporary coach Hayden Foxe in the dugout Sunday evening, two goals in three minutes right before half-time gave them a decent buffer going into the second half against Perth Glory.
An own goal eight minutes from time hauled a battling Perth back into the game, but the Wanderers hung on for a deserved victory.
Elsewhere, the Newcastle Jets thumped Central Coast Mariners 5-1 with Irish striker Roy O’Donovan bagging a first-half hat-trick against his former club.
Substitute Joseph Champness and Dimi Petratos also got on the scoresheet, cancelling out an early goal from the Mariners new Spanish striker Asdrubal in the fifth minute.
Melbourne City opened their campaign with a 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar, thanks to a brace from Bruce Kamau, the first just before half-time and the second with 16 minutes left.
Both teams had new strikers up front — on-loan Aston Villa marksman Ross McCormack led City’s attack, while Italian veteran Massimo Maccarone debuted for the Roar.
“You need a platform to build on. (But) it’s just one game, that’s it,” said City coach Warren Joyce, playing down the significance of a win on the opening day.
In Wellington, the Phoenix and Adelaide United, who both have new European coaches in Dutchman Darije Kalezic and German Marco Kurz, played out a 1-1 draw.
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