Sydney FC loses late, coach later resigns


SYDNEY (AP) -Sydney FC's record early in the Australian A-League season with star recruit Alessandro Del Piero on board reads two wins, four defeats and one resignation.

On Saturday, Sydney held a 2-0 lead over the Melbourne Victory before Del Piero was substituted in the 66th minute. A half hour later, and a day after the former Italy and Juventus striker's 38th birthday, the glamor side from Australia's largest city were 3-2 losers.

Substitute midfielder Andrew Nabbout scored his second goal of the match a minute into added time to give the Victory the comeback win, spoiling Del Piero's return to the starting lineup.

The late loss, following the team's 7-2 embarrassing defeat last week to the Central Coast Mariners - a match Del Piero missed due to tight hamstrings - prompted the resignation of coach Ian Crook for health reasons on Sunday.

Crook signed a two-year contract in May, the team's sixth coach in its seven-year history. Assistant Steve Corica, named interim coach until a replacement is found, will try to improve on Sydney's eighth placing in the 10-team league.

After Saturday's match, Crook was involved in a heated argument with fans on the sideline who criticized him for substituting Del Piero. The Italian striker trained only once in the past week and Crook said the plan was originally to take him off at halftime.

"It's nothing, that's the way it is," Crook said of the incident with the fans, adding the spectators were "just having a go at me."

But on Sunday, he admitted the pressure was getting to him.

"I just felt that it's started to affect me and probably my health. I haven't enjoyed it for a few weeks, if the truth be known," Crook said at a media conference.

The 19-year-old Nabbout also scored in the 79th minute and Archie Thompson in the 86th to help the Victory overcome the 2-0 deficit. Sydney had gone ahead through Panamanian striker Yairo Yau, converting a pass from Del Piero in the 14th, and Dutch defender Pascal Bosschaart, in the 48th.

In Sunday matches, Daniel McBreen's 68th-minute goal gave Central Coast a 1-0 win over the Wellington Phoenix, moving the Mariners into first place. Adelaide is in second place, equal on points but behind on goal difference, after a 1-1 draw with Perth.

The A-League's other high-profile import this season, former England international Emile Heskey, scored his fifth goal in six matches to give the Newcastle Jets a 2-1 win over the first-year Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Wanderers took a 1-0 lead after 15 minutes on Joe Gibbs' goal, but Ryan Griffiths leveled in the 28th and Heskey scored the close-range winner in the 37th after a Craig Goodwin cross.

Newcastle finished the game with 10 men after substitute Jacob Pepper received two yellow cards in the last six minutes.

"He (Heskey) was great again tonight, the amount of times where he holds the ball up or flicks the ball on and people can pick up that ball," Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond said. "It just brings so much confidence into the group as well."

On Friday, defending champions Brisbane slumped to last place after a 4-1 loss to the Melbourne Heart. It was the Roar's third loss in a row and they've scored just once in that span, Henrique's consolation effort with eight minutes left.

Patrick Gerhardt gave the Heart a 1-0 lead over Brisbane in the 20th and former Socceroo Richard Garcia made it 2-0 in the 62nd. Croatian striker Josip Tadic, on a penalty, and substitute David Williams completed the scoring.

The poor performance prompted an apology from Roar captain Matt Smith to coach Rado Vidosic and the team's fans.

"Tonight was, to me, probably the lowest point I've had at the club," Smith said.

Vidosic agreed with Smith's assessment of the match.

"There was no heart in our play," the team's first-year coach said. "It was just the game that individuals didn't want to play in, didn't want to perform."

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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