A late header from Ryan McGowan has delivered Sydney FC a 3-2 win against Adelaide United in a rollicking A-League season opener.
McGowan nailed a free header in the 87th minute to settle a feisty Friday night encounter at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium.
After Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre produced a rapid first-half brace, Adelaide rallied with replies to Nikola Mileusnic and Al Hassan Toure.
And just as the fizz appeared to be dwindling, South Australian-born McGowan produced the decisive moment of his first A-League game.
Unmarked from a Brandon O’Neill corner, McGowan floated to within 5 metres from goal and sweetly hammered a header.
The season opener also included a straight red card to Adelaide’s Ryan Strain, who was marched off for felling Le Fondre in a second-half sprint towards goal.
And the fresh campaign also featured video assistant review (VAR) flashpoints, including an offside call which denied a goal to new Sky Blue Kosta Barbarouses.
Barbarouses thought he had delivered for his new club when he slotted past Adelaide goalkeeper Paul Izzo in the 60th minute.
But a VAR review found the New Zealander offside and the goal was disallowed.
Just 10 minutes earlier, the VAR system decided Adelaide’s lively newcomer Toure had squared scores 2-2.
In another narrow call, Toure was ruled onside when his teammate Riley McGree played an audacious lofted pass which paved the path to goal.
Toure’s score lifted the 9,903-strong Adelaide crowd which had earlier slumped after Le Fondre’s quick-fire double.
Just 20 minutes in, referee Alex King halted play for a VAR check — he watched replays of a Le Fondre clip brush an arm of Adelaide captain Michael Jakobsen inside the area, and awarded a penalty.
Le Fondre duly scored, thumping into the top right netting.
Just six minutes later, the Englishman started and finished a flowing play which diced Adelaide’s defence.
Le Fondre supplied Milos Ninkovic, who played Alex Baumjohann into space and the German’s cut back across the goal face precisely found Le Fondre for a tap-in.
Adelaide answered just before halftime when Sydney’s Baumjohann tangled with Ryan Kitto and the Reds were given a free kick some 20 metres out.
Mileusnic duly produced a stunner: a curling strike which eluded a diving Thomas Heward-Belle.