Del Piero sizzles in Sydney’s biggest win

Updated 19 January 2013
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Del Piero sizzles in Sydney’s biggest win

SYDNEY: Former Italy striker Alessandro Del Piero’s four-goal masterclass inspired Sydney FC to a record 7-1 victory over the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.
The 38-year-old former Juventus stalwart was involved in all six goals before he was substituted after thoroughly entertaining more than 12,500 fans at the Allianz Stadium.
“I felt free in my mind today, for sure,” Del Piero said after helping his team to jump to sixth place in the 10-team league with their biggest A-League triumph.
“It’s a day from the heavens because when you score four, for sure it’s a great day.
“I’m really happy, not only for the four goals but because we played very good from the first minute.” New signing Joel Griffiths latched on to a Del Piero lob to open the account in the 11th minute before the former Italy great himself made it on to the scoresheet.
His back to the goal, Del Piero received a low cross and swiveled to bury the ball into the top left corner. He got his second within a minute, converting from the penalty spot after Jason Culina was brought down inside the box.
In no mood to relax, Del Piero released Ali Abbas down the flank before the ball reached Culina who slotted home in the 25th minute.
Del Piero completed his hat-trick with a powerful, curling shot from the top of the box as Sydney went into the break with a 5-0 lead.
Del Piero scored his fourth goal in the 70th minute before going off the pitch to a standing ovation.
Ben Sigmund scored a consolation goal for the visitors before Yairo Yao struck to complete the rout.


Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

Updated 48 min 18 sec ago
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Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal

  • Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
  • Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.

If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.

KEY CLASH

MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO

The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.