- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

SYDNEY (AP) - Sydney FC edged further away from a mid-season crisis of form and confidence with a 2-0 win over Newcastle which lifted it to fourth place in the A-League.

Two weeks and two wins after protesting fans called for the sacking of coach Frank Farina, board chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata during a 3-0 loss to Adelaide, Sydney hoisted itself back into playoff contention with its first back-to-back wins in 12 rounds.

Captain Alessandro Del Piero laid on the opening goal and scored the second from the penalty spot as Sydney built on its previous 2-1 win over Perth.

In other matches, second-place Western Sydney Wanderers beat Perth 2-0 and the Melbourne Victory rallied to beat Adelaide 4-3 and to stay in third place in the standings.

The Wellington Phoenix bounced back from last week’s 5-0 home loss to the Melbourne Heart with a 4-1 win over defending champion Central Coast.

On Sunday, last-placed Melbourne Heart beat league-best Brisbane 1-0 to extend their unbeaten run to six games. Orlando Engelaar scored the winning goal in the 61st minute.

Del Piero played a key role in Sydney’s win over Newcastle. He first found the unmarked Sasa Ognenovski with a corner in the 60th minute, then drew a foul from defender Taylor Regan in the 72nd and converted the subsequent penalty.

Farina said Sydney earned “a huge three points” at a tumultuous time.

“I’ve always had the belief we could fight our way out of the situation we were in and all the bombs that were being thrown the last two, three weeks, from all angles,” he said. “Our players showed great character. Last week was must-win and, to back it up this week, shows the character in our club.”

The Victory twice came from behind to snatch a 4-3 win over Adelaide which left them two points ahead of Sydney on the table. Serge Cirio scored a hat trick for Adelaide, which led 1-0 and then 2-1 before Gui Finkler, Archie Thompson and Kosta Barbarouses scored second-half goals to clinch the Victory’s win.

“A great game,” Melbourne coach Kevin Muscat said. “If I’m honest I would have liked to have had it a little bit easier in the last five minutes. The fourth one would have finished it off but take nothing away from Adelaide.”

Wellington trailed 1-0 at halftime before a tweak to its midfield sparked a massive improvement and second-half goals from Costa Ricans Kenny Cunningham and Carlos Hernandez, Belgium’s Stein Huysegems and New Zealand striker Jeremy Brockie.

“A lot of people think coaches provide motivational speeches at halftime but what we really did was restructure, only slightly, our midfield,” coach Ernie Merrick said.

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