Syd FC stop Wanderers' A-League win streak
Sydney FC ended Western Sydney Wanderers' 10-game A-League winning streak with a controversial 1-1 draw at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday in a pulsating derby in which both sides were reduced to 10 men.
In a contest worthy of the pre-game hype, a brave Sydney held on against a fast-finishing Wanderers after an Alessandro Del Piero strike for the visitors in the 34th minute was matched by Shannon Cole's free-kick in the 69th minute.
The Wanderers' equaliser came after Sydney were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when captain Brett Emerton was handed a straight red card by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones for a clumsy challenge on Cole.
The Wanderers constantly pressed forward in the final 20 minutes searching for a record 11th win but the Sydney defence was up to the challenge before 19,585 fans.
In time added on, Iacopo La Rocca was also given a straight red for striking Terry Antonis in the face, in an incident which could have major implications for the Wanderers.
With one round to play, the point could be enough to lift fifth-placed Sydney into the finals.
Anything other than a Central Coast victory over Adelaide on Sunday will deliver the minor premiership to the Wanderers in their debut season.
A shocking defensive mistake from stand-in captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley handed Sydney the opening goal.
Topor-Stanley passed lazily across goal and Del Piero pounced.
The Italian World Cup winner worked the ball into the box despite the attention of Topor-Stanley and La Rocca. Del Piero then showed his class to thread the ball past Ante Covic at the far post.
But Cole saved his side with a sublime free-kick that has all but secured the Wanderers top spot on the A-League ladder.
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina said he felt the Emerton red card, which he conceded was probably deserved, cost his side the win.
"I thought we had control," he said.
"It was 1-0 before that and we were looking comfortable. That changed it for us."
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said the match would provide his side with vital experience come finals time and he didn't dwell on the end of their record winning streak.
"We stuck to it - we played some good football. It (a draw) was the least we deserved," he said.
"We continue our unbeaten run at 11 games and we move on to next week."