Sydney can win A-League: O'Neill
Photo Source: AAP
Midfielder Brandon O'Neill has warned A-League rivals that Sydney FC mean business this year after a sensational derby triumph headlined a opening round packed with late drama and attendance records.
Punters set a single-round attendance record to kick-start the 2016-17 season, as 106,365 people poured through the gates across the weekend's five matches.
More than half of those were at ANZ Stadium for Saturday night's blockbuster Sydney derby, the 61,880 crowd comfortably eclipsing the previous record for a domestic competition football match in Australia.
The revitalised Sky Blues' 4-0 flogging of Western Sydney - the biggest-ever Sydney derby margin - made for a compelling title statement.
Coach Graham Arnold knows from last season's humbling seventh-place finish that one result is never enough to test a squad's championship credentials.
But for O'Neill, who scored the third goal with a sizzling free-kick, there was something in the way Sydney played that said they're ready to claim a first piece of silverware in seven seasons.
"I know it's round one, I know it's early," the 22-year-old said.
"But if we can continue this ... I don't know what to call it, it's something there that I think championship teams are built on.
"That's what we believe we are.
"Going into rounds two and three, we need to keep this going and keep improving because there are still aspects we can definitely improve on."
The Wanderers need to tie up defensive holes before Friday's grand-final rematch with Adelaide, but all was not lost for Tony Popovic's revamped and notoriously slow-starting team.
Jumpei Kusukami was exceptional while marquee playmaker Nicolas Martinez's cameo signalled the Argentine could yet give the west what no player has since Shinji Ono.
In other cities round one was one of stolen victories and costly mistakes.
Brisbane were up to their usual at-the-death heroics at Suncorp Stadium, when defender Luke DeVere struck in the dying seconds to earn a 1-1 home draw with Melbourne Victory.
The controversial result, tempered by skipper Matt McKay's red card in his 200th A-League appearance, would have been even less believable had Roar not vanquished Victory from last season's final series in much the same manner.
Over in Perth, last season's wooden spooners Central Coast shocked Glory and pundits alike, overturning a three-goal deficit to snatch a draw in a six-goal thriller.
It was only the fifth time in A-League history such a comeback has been accomplished; the Mariners pulling off three of those.
Defensive frailties remain, but the dramatic fightback was an encouraging start in new coach Paul Okon's bid to return a winning mentality to Gosford.
"One result doesn't make our season," Okon said.
"But it's a platform for us to build on and improve."
Over the ditch, Anthony Caceres booted a 10-man Melbourne City to a gritty 1-0 win over depleted Wellington, but John van `t Schip's side will have to contest next week's Melbourne derby without red-carded first-choice goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Meanwhile, reigning champions Adelaide managed to steal a point from unfancied Newcastle thanks to goalkeeper Jack Duncan's comedic error in tackling his own defender Daniel Mullen.