Campbelltown City left it late but have commenced their NPL South Australia title defence with a win after a last-gasp 3-2 result over Adelaide Blue Eagles on Friday night.
Marc Marino netted a second half double to twice draw the hosts level at Steve Woodcock Sports Centre, but it was a dramatic 89th minute strike from Antony Piscioneri – assisted by his brother Adam - that ultimately sealed the points.
Earlier the counter-attacking Azzurri looked on track to snatch the spoils on the back of a goal in each half from Yohei Matsumoto and Evan Kounavelis but ultimately could not hold on against their determined opponents.
The win marks the first for the Red Devils’ under new coach Phil Stubbins and lifts his side straight to the top of the NPL South Australia standings, with the remaining five matches of the opening round to be played on Saturday.
Despite the final scoreline, the Azzurri had seemingly made the perfect start to their 2020 season when they took the lead inside four minutes through prized off-season capture Yohei Matsumoto.
The Japanese attacker latched on to a well-weighted lobbed pass before doing just enough to evade the onrushing goalkeeper Nicholas Harpas and then thunder the ball into an empty net to score against his former club.
Further half-chances followed for the Azzurri, but the hosts were next to threaten just prior to the quarter hour as Marc Marino volleyed wide of the near post after his run was found from a lobbed free-kick.
The contest was opened up further on 21 minutes as a strong run from Christian Sotira to the top of the ‘D’ saw the Azzurri midfielder drive a shot just wide of the target.
However, the Red Devils’ increasingly asserted themselves on the midfield battle and soon looked the team most likely as Marino headed wide and then saw a shot deflect across the face of goal either side of the half-hour.
The frustration mounted for the hosts soon after as a pin-point long-range hit from Adam Piscioneri found the back of the net only to be disallowed following a foul in the build-up, while Daniel Mullen could only steer a header straight at Blue Eagles goalkeeper Richard Goss.
Playing a more direct and countering style, the visitors soaked up the pressure and almost doubled their lead immediately before the break as Matsumoto and Shekubah Hutton-Addy both shot wide after latching on to errors in the hosts' defensive third.
The Azzurri came closer again immediately after the restart as Sotira sent a firm hit straight at Harpas before the Red Devils began to pile up the chances only to be foiled by sharp stops from Goss.
First the Blue Eagles gloveman tipped over a strong header from Matt Mullen on 48 minutes, before then deflecting a one-on-one attempt from Adam Piscioneri and scooping up a long-range shot from Joel Allwright prior to the hour.
The pressure was building and the hosts finally had their equaliser on 61 minutes as Marino turned in a first-time finish at close range from off-season recruit Joshua Barresi.
However, just minutes later their perseverance was brought undone when defender Matt Mullen conceded a penalty – Kounevalis stepping up to convert the spot kick with a firm strike.
Despite their home support, the Red Devils's hopes appeared to be faded as Adam Piscioneri and Marino both sent free-kicks wide from dangerous positions as the clock wound down.
However, the busy duo would combine in the 87th minute to again level terms as Adam Piscioneri danced through a pair of Azzurri defenders to play in Marino for his brace – the striker calmly touching home the finish past the onrushing Ross.
The visitors sought reply as Hirofumi Kochi sent a dipping effort over the cross bar as injury time loomed, however, it would be the Red Devils’ that would have the final say with just one minute remaining in regular time.
Substitute Antony Piscioneri’s run in the box was picked out by a pass off the outside of the boot from brother Adam to set-up a composed one-on-one-finish on the angle to seal a dramatic win.