Hyundai A-League - 2012/2013 - Season 8

Wanderers pile on the pressure
By Daniel Paperny

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 22
7:45pm, 24 November, 2012
at Paramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1
(Aaron Mooy 58')
Perth Glory FC 0

Midfielder Aaron Mooy capped off an impressive performance with a goal against the Perth Glory last Saturday in a match that saw the Wanderers pile on the pressure in Round 22 of A-League action.

By now, the fans draped in red and black know all too well who they sing for. Victory in this match means the Wanderers have become the first team to win seven matches in a row since the eight wins stringed together by championship winning side Melbourne Victory in 2006. Tony Popovic’s men managed to keep Glory’s Shane Smeltz at bay at Parramatta Stadium, conceding a total of 7 shots compared to Glory’s 13. What these figures do not show are the extent to which Perth Glory’s attacking influence was limited – they registered only 2 shots on target with their forwards restricted mainly to long shots, and most of their attacking play was concentrated around the edge of the penalty box.

Confidence and experience

A season marred by inconsistency has seen last year’s grand finalists lose momentum this year. However, their match-winning performance against the Mariners last week under new coach Alistair Edwards spoke of the steps that Perth Glory have taken to see a change in fortunes. Though, lining up in a 4-2-3-1, the team that faced Western Sydney last Saturday was once again lacking in shape and confidence. None more clearly than Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who flapped at several high balls, had poor distribution of the ball and frequently dithered on his goal kicks. The anxiety was there on 28 minutes as a miscommunication between Michael Thwaite and Josh Risdon on an attempted throughball saw a stream of shouts and nerves take hold as the Wanderers gained possession in a key focal area on the wide left of the pitch. Additionally, substitute Ryo Nagai seemed to rush his attacking opportunities, displaying poor composure and a bad first touch that cost Perth a number of key chances.

Aaron Mooy’s goal on 57 minutes was simple but effective, coming off a harsh deflection from Thwaite. Starting from the edge of the area, Mooy exchanged in a routine 1,2 with Mark Bridge before confidently slotting beyond Vukovic with a left-footed strike to score his first ever A-League goal.

For a team that had reached the grand finals last season, Perth Glory seemed to be a shadow of themselves. But in the Wanderers, they faced a side brimming with experience of their own with Mark Bridge starting his 150th A-League game and providing a tireless outlet for attacking play on the left.

Key players limited

Perth Glory’s fearsome striker, Shane Smeltz, leading the all-time A-League goalscoring charts with a record of 72 goals, was simply marked out of this game. Having scored 6 goals in 14 appearances, the seasoned forward was dealt with tidily by Michael Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley who took turns in negating Smeltz’ impact; with one centreback sitting deep and the other shuttling to help with defensive cover and shape.

Liam Miller shone in flashes and was the only real spark for Glory on the day. Playing from deep, Miller was pressured as soon as he received the ball however he showed exquisite composure, brilliant technique and command of play to hold up the ball, look for options, evade multiple challenges and finally spray passes forward. On 40 minutes, the former Celtic and Manchester United player hit a brilliant curving throughball that found the striding run of Harold on the left. Miller made the pass look easy with the outside of his foot, slicing through the Wanderer’s defence – yet moments like these proved to be far and few as the Reds played a high intensity pressing game, affording Glory with very little time on the ball throughout the match.

On 79 minutes, Miller looked dangerous once more. With a burst of pace and a stepover, Miller was through on goal after an incisive pass by fullback Josh Risdon but his shot was saved by Ante Covic, who recorded his 100th A-League game with a clean sheet.

Team cohesion and partnerships

The Wanderer’s defensive strength and rigour this season cannot be overlooked in its significance for developing the team’s structural identity. Ante Covic, it seems, has begun to forge an understanding with his defenders, and this can only be positive for the Wanderer’s defensive solidity. Yet, tactically, Tony Popovic’s defensive line-up is also crucial in the way in which the side looks to develop its attacking play, particularly by patiently threading passes from the back and having fast full-backs to stretch the play. Jerome Polenz’ effectiveness as an attacking full-back in the mould of Dani Alves has reaped in rewards for Popovic’s men and has created an element of attacking verve and fluidity about the side that has made them all the more dangerous on the pitch. Having cemented his place in the Wanderers starting XI, it has been a positive transitory period for Jerome Polenz who has begun to develop a clockwork understanding with Youssouf Hersi on the right side of play. Hersi himself was reminiscent of an Arjen Robben of old: lethal on the ball, always threatening wide and drawing all the fouls by consistently getting into good attacking positions.

What is most impressive about Tony Popovic’s coaching is the commitment, consistency and tactical discipline that he exacts from his players. Shinji Ono and Aaron Mooy showcased an array of silky smooth passing and never failed to threaten during the game. Their eye for incisive diagonals meant that both players could interchange and position themselves on the edge of the area to function as playmakers, controlling play and acting as key points of reference when the Wanderers sought to close down space. The red and black faithful can take pride in knowing that theirs is a side forged through strict team organisation that has resulted in the steady transformation of what was deemed an excitingly new prospect in the A-League to a team that has mounted a serious challenge for this season’s honours.

Central Coast contest

While Perth have now only won 1 out of 11 games away from home, the Wanderers will be hoping to build on their impressive momentum as they face the Central Coast next week in a penultimate battle for first place. With tensions mounting high, this will be one to savour.

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 8
7:45pm, 24 November, 2012
at Paramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1
(Aaron Mooy 58')
Perth Glory FC 0

    Crowd: 11,772


    Western Sydney Wanderers FC :
    Player listing:
    Covic (gk), D'Apuzzo, Beauchamp, Topor-Stanley, Polenz; La Rocca, Mooy; Bridge, Ono (Cole +84'), Hersi (Appiah-Kubi +76'); Gibbs (Kresinger +66')

    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: Tony Popovic

    Yellow Cards: Iacopo La Rocca '10, Adam D'Apuzzo '62, Dino Kresinger '85
    Red Cards: Nil

    Perth Glory FC :
    Player listing:
    Vukovic (gk); Heffernan (Cordoba +64'), Pantelidis, Thwaite, Risdon; Ward (Jamieson +64'), Miller; Harold (Nagai +69'), McGarry, Dodd; Smeltz

    Substitutes not used: tba (rgk)

    Coach: Ange Postecoglou

    Yellow Cards: Steven McGarry '20, Nick Ward '45, Danny Vukovic '86
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Ben Williams 4/10
    Assistant referee 1: Lance Greenshields, Assistant referee 2: Sarah Ho; Fourth official: Scott Edeling

    BOTN Player Points:
    3. Aaron Mooy (WSW)
    2. Adam D'Apuzzo (WSW)
    1. Liam Miller (PG)

    Pitch rating: 5/10

    Game rating: 6/10

    Match report, ratings: By Daniel Paperny

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here are as attributed.

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