A-League marquee man Nani showed his class as Melbourne Victory spoiled Sydney FC’s return to Allianz Stadium with a 3-2 win on Saturday night.
With scores locked at 1-1 in the 67th minute of a highly competitive “Big Blue”, the former Manchester United star produced the pass of the match to set up Victory substitute Chris Ikonomidis, who scored at the far post.
The low and angled cross, which skimmed dangerously across the face of the Sydney penalty area, was Nani’s final contribution of the night as he was substituted a few minutes later.
However, the Portuguese legend left his undeniable mark in a thrilling first-round encounter to prove his move to the A-League will be a massive boost for a competition crying out for big-name stars.
The action didn’t end after Nani went off, with Sydney levelling scores at 2-2 in the 79th minute via a header from former Victory defender James Donachie.
But the Victory weren’t done, with World Cup hopefuls Nick D’Agostino and Ikonomidis combining to set up their captain – former Sydney midfielder Josh Brillante – for the winner in the 83rd minute.
It wasn’t the result the Sydneysiders were seeking for on their return to a revamped Allianz Stadium after four seasons away.
However, it was a dream start on a wet night in front of more than 21,000 fans for the Victory, who after falling a game short of the grand final last season are desperate to go at least one stop further in their 2022-23 campaign.
“It was a great night for us.” Nani told Network 10.
“The opponent was very tough at the beginning of the game.
“It was a little bit hard. The field was a little bit heavy, it was raining all day, but congratulations to both teams, we managed to make a good spectacle for the fans.
“It was a good start to the season. I hope we continue to produce games like that.
“We deserved to win. We did our best. It was a tough game for us but we’ve been working hard for this moment.”
Earlier, Slovakian international Robert Mak made the perfect start to his A-League career, giving the Sky Blues the lead in the 15th minute.
Mak finished from close range after finding space in the Victory’s penalty area and making the most of a perfectly weighted short pass from teammate Patrick Yazbek.
However, scores were again level 15 minutes later when Victory striker D’Agostino produced power and placement to head home a Ben Folami cross.
Nani’s class then broke the game open 22 minutes into the second half, before a frantic finish that was fitting for a memorable opening-round encounter, that included referee Chris Beath needing medical attention after an accidental collision with Sydney’s Rhyan Grant.