Victory move to second with 3-1 win
They may have come to see Alessandro Del Piero, but they left talking about Marco Rojas as Melbourne Victory put the rest of the A-League on notice with a 3-1 mauling of Sydney FC on Saturday night.
The Victory bossed and battered a Sky Blues team which finished the match with nine men in a compelling display at a sold-out AAMI Park.
Second-half efforts from Archie Thompson and Rojas, followed a 24th-minute deflected own goal from Sydney defender Seb Ryall capped a dominant performance from the hosts.
Not helped by Tiago Calvano's send-off on the hour for flinging an outstretched arm to block Leigh Broxham, the Sky Blues were mainly undone by a committed Victory midfield display with Broxham, Billy Celeski and Mark Milligan outstanding.
But the silk came from Rojas, who would have impressed scouts from English Premier League club Liverpool and Italian giants Juventus in attendance with a magnificent display in the front third.
He scored a beautifully crafted goal in the 72nd minute - that was aided by heavy deflections off Sydney FC defenders - and was the architect of the opener.
The 21-year-old New Zealand international intercepted a Rhyan Grant backpass and his goalbound effort cannoned off Ryall, wrong-footing keeper Vedran Janjetovic.
Del Piero was well held for most of the evening as Victory's midfield invaded his aura and bit around his ankles effectively.
The first half-hour was all Victory.
The Victory had the majority of the best chances - coming closest to a second when Broxham forced a great diving save from Janjetovic on 28 minutes.
Sydney FC also lost Socceroo Brett Emerton midway through the half with a hamstring injury.
Once Calvano was sent off, all Sydney's hope looked gone - though their best chances and only goal came when they were down to 10 men.
They could have even equalised had Joel Griffiths not fluffed a great chance - from a Del Piero through ball - in the 66th minute as he shot across goal when it beckoned.
Thirty seconds later, the Victory were 2-0 up as Thompson found the net.
It was party-time in the 72nd minute as Rojas scored a classy second, holding off a defender, turning and shooting off Adam Griffiths to make it 3-0.
Joel Griffiths grabbed a consolation on 75 minutes, but Sydney's night turned even worse when fullback Fabio was marched in stoppage time for a second yellow card.