SYDNEY (AP) – Former Italy and Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero scored four goals as Sydney FC routed last-place Wellington 7-1 Saturday in Australian football's A-League.
Del Piero finally found form after an injury-plagued season to score in the 20th, 23rd, 39th and 70th minutes, giving Sydney and emphatic win which thrust it away from the foot of the A-League table.
Sydney is paying Del Piero a reported $4 million on a two-year contract to be its marquee player in the 10-team Australian league, but had slumped to the bottom of the league as the Italian battled hamstring and other injuries. However, Del Piero's performance in front of 12,691 fans on Saturday was described as one of the best individual efforts ever seen in the A-League.
The win was Sydney's largest-ever in an A-League match and, in part, counter-balanced its 7-2 loss to league-leading Central Coast in round five.
The 38-year-old striker led a much-improved team performance, providing the finishing touches in a win that lifted Sydney as high as sixth-place in the A-League, pending the outcome of other matches in the current 17th round.
For Wellington, the loss ensured it equaled its worst-ever losing streak of four matches and left it resolutely anchored at the bottom of the 10-team table.
Sydney overwhelmed Wellington on Saturday, racing to a 5-0 lead after only 39 minutes. Joel Griffiths, playing his first A-League match in four years after joining Sydney from China, seemed to provide the spark that ignited his team's performance.
He opened the scoring in the 11th minute, with a goal that came from slick combination with Del Piero. The Italy star delivered a superb, lofted through-ball from halfway and Griffith delivered the final touch.
Del Piero then cleverly twisted and shot with his left foot for his first goal on 21 minutes, before scoring from a penalty kick two minutes later.
The attacking maestro completed his hat-trick with a stunning strike from the edge of the area in the 39th, before adding another solo effort in the second half.
Ben Sigmund pegged one goal back for Wellington late in the match, before former Panama international Yairo Yao added to Sydney's tally.
On Friday, the Melbourne Heart upset second-placed Adelaide 2-0 to ensure Central Coast stayed atop the table for another week.
Melbourne's win, which was its best result in an inconsistent season, was accompanied by bad news as its Brazilian captain, Fred, was sidelined for a month by a quadriceps injury.