Australian A-League

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Sydney FC CEO who brought Del Piero to Australia steps down

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SYDNEY (AP) Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata, who was instrumental in bringing Italy star Alessandro Del Piero to Australian football’s A-League, is stepping down after five years.

In a statement on Wednesday, the newly-crowned A-League champions said Pignata will leave his post early next month to return to his home town of Melbourne.

Pignata joined Sydney in 2012 and was credited with putting together the deal which brought Del Piero to Australia as the A-League’s highest-profile international signing. He flew to Italy shortly after joining Sydney FC to persuade Del Piero to sign on for what became a highly-successful two-year stay in the A-League.

Del Piero won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and scored 27 goals in 91 appearances for his national team.

Ninkovic wins Australian A-League’s player of the year award

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SYDNEY (AP) Sydney FC playmaker Milos Ninkovic has won the Australian A-League’s player of the season award.

The 32-year-old ex-Serbia international tallied 44 points to hold off Perth Glory’s Diego Castro by seven and Western Sydney’s Nico Martinez by 15.

Ninkovic scored nine goals and had 11 assists in his second A-League season, helping Sydney FC to advance to this weekend’s grand final against Melbourne Victory.

In other awards announced Monday, Sydney FC manager Graham Arnold took the top honors among the coaches, while Victory striker Besart Berisha shared the golden boot (19 goals) with Brisbane Roar’s Jamie Maclaren, who was also voted the younger player of the season.

Socceroos veteran Tim Cahill won the goal of the year award for his 35-meter strike in the second round for Melbourne City.

Samantha Kerr won the women’s player of the year and the women’s goal of the year awards.

VIDEO: Goalkeeper comes out of net, conceded awful goal

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The game had already seen eight goals. Defense appeared optional at nib Stadium in Perth, Australia.

With the Perth Glory leading 5-3 over Melbourne City – a Manchester City feeder club – in stoppage time, the home fans were treated to a hilarious bit of madness from goalkeeper Liam Reddy with time winding down in the match.

Reddy, possibly frustrated by the lack of defensive ability throughout the match, decided he wanted to have a go out in the field. He charged down a long ball forward by Melbourne that brought him just out of his penalty area, but instead of booting it away to kill time and clear the danger, he decided he was going to treat the fans to his best Lionel Messi impression.

The Perth outfield players are left utterly bewildered, and hardly move as they stare baffled by their suddenly adventurous teammate. As you’d expect, because Reddy is, in fact, not Lionel Messi, the ball was eventually stolen by Melbourne City before the halfway line. Reddy would be made to pay for his mistake as the visitors took advantage of the empty net.

Perhaps the most embarrassing part for Reddy was that, after being dispossessed, he seemed consigned to his fate and dropped his head to slowly walk back to his goal. However, the Perth defense looked to bail out their shot-stopper, and momentarily kept Melbourne City from shooting. Reddy realized this too late, and by the time he’d begun to sprint back towards his position in front of net, the opposition had finally unleashed a shot on goal. Had he made his way back immediately after being dispossessed, he might have made it back in time to save face.

As the match commentator put it, “I think this is the maddest game I’ve seen in the A-League.” The game ended 5-4 as Perth held on through stoppage time to win the game and draw level with Melbourne City on points in the league table.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

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Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

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Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Sydney FC extends winning streak to 6 with 4-1 win v Perth

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SYDNEY (AP) Milos Ninkovic scored two goals and created another to help Sydney FC beat Perth Glory 4-1 on Sunday and extend its winning streak to six matches to start the Australian A-League season.

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Sydney FC has 18 points, six more than any other team after six rounds. The team has also already tallied 17 goals, a record mark for this stage of the Australian season.

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Perth’s Irish striker, Andy Keogh, missed two early chances before Ninkovic scored the opener for Sydney in the 14th, swooping on a defensive blunder.

The 21-year-old Serbian playmaker then provided the assist for Bobo’s 38th-minute goal to give Sydney a 2-0 lead.

Perth then cut the margin by forcing an own-goal from Rhyan Grant and the game was in the balance. But Ninkovic restored the two-goal cushion with an 80th-minute volley and skipper Alex Brosque completed the rout in the 88th.

“The last six games we’ve played good, but I think we can play much better with the ball,” Ninkovic said. “We just need to control more ball. This season is going to be much better than last year.”

Melbourne City hung on to second place when it opened the round with a 2-1 win over Newcastle to move to 12 points, and Brisbane Roar remained in third with a 1-1 draw against defending champion Adelaide, which is winless after six rounds.

Melbourne Victory finally fulfilled some of its rich attacking potential with a 3-0 win over Western Sydney on Saturday to move into fourth place on 10 points, leaving the Wanderers without a win in four games and slipping to seventh spot.

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After losing its first four games, Wellington beat Central Coast 2-0 for its second straight win to move into the top six for the first time this season.