Sydney FC are set for a week of soul searching as they attempt to rebound from a "shambolic" 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners.
The Sky Blues endured one of their darkest moments on Saturday night, conceding the second highest amount of goals in an A-League match.
They were without star signing Alessandro Del Piero and a handful of other first-team players and the gulf in class was evident as Tom Rogic, Michael McGlinchey and Daniel McBreen ran riot. But even with the Italian superstar set to return at home against Melbourne Victory on Saturday, Sydney have plenty to prove, with doubts mounting over their squad depth and ability to deliver on lofty pre-season expectations.
After a day off on Sunday, the Sky Blues will return to training on Monday and goalkeeper Ivan Necevski said the team needs to have a "good look at ourselves".
"It was shambolic...to be honest it's a little bit embarrassing to have it happen to us," Necevski told ABC radio on Sunday."Sydney's set a very high standard and we've been the team that's prided ourselves on very good performances and results since the inception of the A-League. We have to sit down and work out what went wrong and make a big improvement against the Victory."
Sydney coach Ian Crook said Del Piero would be fit to return after missing the Mariners clash due to tightness in both hamstrings.
The likes of defenders Pascal Bosschaart and Adam Griffiths and midfielder Jason Culina will draw closer to returns when they play in a practice match against Western Sydney on Tuesday, while Crook will also be desperate to welcome back left back Fabio and striker Joel Chianese from injury in the coming weeks.
While Sydney's injury count has clearly taken its toll, the Sky Blues have also proven their ability to grind out wins with understrength teams and Crook insists his players have the heart to bounce back.
"I don't think our supporters can be embarrassed by our players' lack of effort, it was a lack of quality at certain times that let us down," Crook said.
One positive to come from the defeat was the performance from Panamanian striker Yairo Yau, who could retain his place against the Victory at the expense of an out-of-form Kruno Lovrek.
Reigning minor premiers Central Coast made a strong statement with the win and look likely to be challenging for silverware again with 10 points from five matches.
Western Sydney find themselves in the top four after defeating Melbourne Heart 2-1 to make it back to back wins while Perth ended the Newcastle Jets three-match winning streak with a 3-2 victory at nib Stadium on Saturday.
Adelaide United pulled two points clear of the Mariners atop the competition ladder with a surprise 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday. It was the Roar's second straight defeat at home and the two-time reigning champions have made a disappointing start under new coach Rado Vidosic, as they sit eighth just a point ahead of last-placed Melbourne Victory.
Round five concludes when the Melbourne Victory host Wellington on Monday night.