SYDNEY (AP) — Former Italy and Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero made the most anticipated of a collection of unsuccessful debuts by international stars in Australia's A-League on the weekend, playing in Sydney FC's 2-0 loss in the league's opening round.
Though short of recent match play, the 37-year-old Del Piero played a full 90 minutes for his new club in its match against the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand but couldn't prevent defeat.
Former England striker Emile Heskey played 70 minutes in his debut for the Newcastle Jets, who were beaten 2-0 by Adelaide United, while Japan star Shinji Ono took the field in the 59th minute of the Western Sydney Wanderers' first-ever A-League match which ended in a 0-0 draw with Central Coast.
While none of the league's glamor signings finished on the winning side, all showed enough to suggest they might bring the gravitas to the league that their teams and football officials are hoping for.
The spotlight in the opening round fell most brightly on Del Piero, the costliest and most high-profile signing in the league's eight year history and a global star after his record 513 matches for Juventus and 92 appearances for Italy.
He managed only 70 minutes of match play in an low-key internal club match in his leadup to his A-League debut but showed no lack of fitness in a relatively fast-paced match.
Del Piero was partly outshone on a damp night and in a match played in front of 12,057 fans by former Belgium striker Stein Huysegems, who failed to score in his 15 internationals, but provided Wellington's opening goal.
The second goal fell to Del Piero's marker, 19-year-old Kiwi Louis Fenton, who was also making his A-League debut and provided the match's signal moment of skill to score from a diving header.
Del Piero showed some fine touches, nutmegging opponents, turning and placing deft passes at the feet of his teammates. He had shots on goal in the 13th and 74th minutes, swiveling and firing over the bar at his first attempt and curling his second wide of goal.