Sky Blues off and running with victory in Melbourne
A-League champions Sydney FC have continued their streak of dominance over Melbourne Victory, winning 1-0 in Saturday night's grand final rematch.
An own goal from defender Thomas Deng early in the second half was all the Sky Blues needed as they opened their title defence with an assured, confident performance in front of 24,808 fans at Docklands Stadium.
Deng, 20, couldn't react quickly enough when a cross from Luke Wilkshire took the slightest glance off Alex Brosque's forehead and landed at his feet.
The ball spilled off him and past Lawrence Thomas's outstretched glove to give the visitors the lead in the 53rd minute.
It was Sydney's fourth win a row against its 'Big Blue' rivals after Graham Arnold's men prevailed in all three A-League fixtures last season, then again on penalties in the grand final.
Victory's last win over Sydney was on Australia Day in 2016.
Deng was making his return appearance for Victory after spending last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven.
He was also playing out of position at left-back, with the absence of Melbourne's international trio Mark Milligan, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses — plus a hamstring injury to Argentinian recruit Matias Sanchez — forcing coach Kevin Muscat into a reshuffle.
Another new signing, Dutch winger Leroy George, started in attacking midfield despite lacking match fitness and lasted just more than an hour before he was replaced by Tasmanian product Josh Hope, who made his A-League debut.
Sydney was missing its usual left-back, the injured Michael Zullo, but was otherwise at full strength and seemed every bit the well-oiled machine it was last season.
The Sky Blues were troubled early by Victory's high press but eventually came into their own and finished the first half as the better side.
While the game opened up after that and Melbourne took control for much of the second stanza, Sydney was good enough to snuff out the chances generated in the mad push for an equaliser.
Besart Berisha went closest to levelling the scores in the 63rd minute but his attempt, like many others, was blocked by the resolute Sky Blues defence.
O'Donovan treble sees impressive Jets beat Mariners
Newcastle striker Roy O'Donovan has bagged a first-half A-League hat-trick to help the Jets thrash his former club Central Coast 5-1 in Gosford.
O'Donovan, who was the Mariners' top scorer in each of his two seasons with the club, was booed on Saturday by some of the home fans.
But the jeers were soon overwhelmed by the cheers of the away supporters, in the crowd of 12,044, as the 32-year-old Irishman had three goals on the board inside 38 minutes and helped overturn an early deficit.
O'Donovan also supplied the pass that set up substitute Joseph Champness for the Jets' fourth goal in the 81st minute and Dimi Petratos struck a spectacular fifth in the 90th.
It was a first win in 11 A-League games for 2016-17 last-placed Newcastle, who last won on January 27 and had not scored a goal in their final five matches of last season.
They looked a more-potent outfit, with O'Donovan, new import Ronald Vargas Petratos and Andrew Nabbout all lively.
The Mariners scored first through new Spanish striker Asdrubal in the fifth minute.
It was a short-lived lead as O'Donovan converted a penalty he earned after being fouled by Mariners captain Alan Baro.
The veteran striker then capitalised on two smart assists from Nabbout, netting with a close-range shot and a perfect header.
The derby became feisty with the Jets' Daniel Georgievski and Steven Ugarkovic and the Mariners' Josh Rose all booked in the last few minutes of the first half.
Nabbout joined them in referee Jonathan Barreiro's notebook in a second half in which both teams created more chances and the Mariners dominated the corner count.