There was no Heskey-cam and his goal was largely overshadowed by a free-kick from an opponent on the losing side.
But Emile Heskey’s neat volley in Newcastle’s win over Sydney FC reminded fans there was more than one marquee man on show.
The Jets’ gripping 3-2 victory in front of 35,419 utterly absorbed fans at Allianz Stadium was everything the marketing folks had hoped for.
Except – perhaps – for the result.
And Heskey had plenty to do with that result, crashing home a vital goal just four minutes before the half-time break.
It was a typical Heskey goal full of the strength and power we’ve come to expect from one of world football’s most powerful target men.
And if his goal was important in helping the Jets land all three points, it also helped proved marquees can be just as influential on the pitch as off it.
For all the buzz around Alessandro Del Piero’s fabulous maiden A-League strike, he still ended up on the losing side.
The point wasn’t lost on a Del Piero, who in the post-match press conference said he plays to win and not merely to score goals.
And you get the sense that after opening their A-League accounts both Heskey and Del Piero will score plenty of goals this season.
But while Heskey’s performance was overshadowed by Del Piero’s screamer, Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond will hope it’s a portent of things to come.
For all the jokes about his strike rate, Heskey knows intuitively where to position himself inside the penalty box.
Against the Sky Blues he stepped away from Sydney defender Adam Griffiths to create space for himself and even if Griffiths had been marking Heskey tighter, the former England striker would invariably have used his prodigious strength to beat his man to the ball.
And though Ryan Griffiths and the outstanding Craig Goodwin both scored equally important goals, Heskey’s is the one that will ensure a healthy proportion of newcomers to the A-League will return again in future.
But even the former England striker couldn’t match the drama of Del Piero’s goal.
Not since David Beckham lined up a free-kick for LA Galaxy has there been such an air of expectation around a dead-ball situation in Sydney.
The difference here is that Del Piero isn’t some celebrity blow-in.
He’s here to leave a legacy. Here’s hoping his free-kick is the first of many.
And if the Del Piero fans and first-time supporters want to witness his first ever A-League win, they’ll need to buy a ticket for the derby against Western Sydney next week – or perhaps even the following game against Perth Glory at ANZ Stadium.
Maybe the result wasn’t a bad one for the marketing folks after all, in as much as it should keep the turnstiles ticking over with fans wanting to witness Del Piero’s historic firsts.
With record merchandise sales and a princely sum pocketed in ticket revenue from their first home game of the season, Sydney FC have proved unequivocally that the marquee system works – provided clubs sign the right kind of player.
And there’s nothing to say the Jets haven’t signed the right marquee man as well.
If Del Piero’s goal was good for business, Heskey’s reminded us he’s in the business of scoring goals.
The views in this article are those of the author, not Football Federation Australia or the Hyundai A-League.