Wanderers turn it on

by Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 11

7pm, Monday 23 December, 2013 – Parramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2
(Tomi Juric 20′, Youssouf Hersi 33′)
Central Coast Mariners FC 0

 Western Sydney Wanderers continued their fight-back, following a 3-1 loss at the hands of Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium in November, by clinically taking Central Coast Mariners apart at Parramatta Stadium on Monday night.

Their 2-0 win was well deserved as the Wanderers welcomed back striker Tomi Juric, who had been missing from their line-up for a month.

Juric, one of two key players out of action for a few weeks – the other is Brendon Santalab – picked up the pieces having been named in the starting line-up, despite his long absence from the playing ranks.

He took next to no time to get back into his stride and the opening goal after 20 minutes was a true striker’s effort, a reverse scissors-kick after a cross had been deflected beyond the nearest defender and slightly behind Juric himself.

Wanderers had probed menacingly from the opening whistle, mostly down the right, exposing Mariners’ left back Joshua Rose, who faced the impressive and prodigious flankers like Jerome Polenz and Iacopo La Rocca, aided and abetted by former Japanese international, Shinji Ono.

Ono went close twice before the home side opened their account, his lack of a striker’s instinct perhaps to blame for not making the most of two good chances close to goal.

But that was all forgotten when Juric latched onto a loose ball after an attempt on goal by La Rocca had deflected off a sentry-like defender.

It might have been difficult for most fully-fit forwards let alone one on the road back from injury, but Juric showed how he was indeed a natural striker as he instinctively got himself into the right position to execute the acrobatic shot that found the net and gave Liam Reddy no chance.

Central Coast have begun to show signs of inconsistency, beating Sydney FC at home and then crashing away to Adelaide 4-0. They overcame Wellington in a dour North Sydney Oval game the previous Thursday, but not without an obvious drain on their energy levels which left them with barely enough in the tank to combat Wanderers effectively.

Mile Sterjovski, who played on the same ground in the old NSL for Parramatta Power before going overseas, scoring goals aplenty, was clearly feeling the strain and was replaced after 30 minutes by Nick Fitzgerald.

Daniel McBreen, too, looked jaded, especially towards the end when a recovery operation needed him to be at his most explosive.

And so, even with the Mariners creating some first half chances, one of which saw ultra-reliable Wanderers’ defender, Matthew Spiranovic, effect a superb saving tackle near the far post, it needed something a bit more special to trouble this efficient defensive unit and fresh legs, which Central Coast simply didn’t have. Marco Flores was the Mariners’ man bested by the redoubtable Spiranovic.

And so it was that the hosts were able to extend their lead in the 33rd.

Brilliant attacker, Youssouf Hersi, benefitted from sound work on the right again by La Rocca and Ono, the latter’s cross reaching Youssouf who lashed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.

It was uphill from there for the visitors, who had beaten the Wanderers in the Grand Final of the previous season.

While Wanderers focussed principally on defence after that, with Nikolai Topor-Stanley marshalling his troops superbly, there were still opportunities for fast raids to keep the Mariners’ defence on its toes.

Central Coast sent on Mitchell Duke, who livened things up well as the main target man and sent on Matt Simon for the last 15 minutes, to little avail.

It was to prove a valuable win for the Wanderers whose fans kept up a constant cacophony of sound, punctuated by witty banter and a light show over the concluding minutes, courtesy of mobile phones, held aloft.

Central Coast coach Phil Moss agreed that his side had made some mistakes early and been punished and that those needed to be eradicated, while Tony Popovic praised his men for their work on the night, indicating that things are only just coming together now and that there’s still plenty of work ahead of everyone.

Moss had some positive words for his players after the match, remaining upbeat ahead of his team’s traditional New Year’s Eve match this year against Wellington Phoenix.

“I was very happy with the reaction second half,” Moss said. “We had some good honest words at half time, and I thought the boys showed some real character second half.”

“(But) the first thing we need to do is improve with the ball and make sure we stop shipping cheap goals.”

“We have to tighten up but it’s not a structural problem, it’s a transitional problem. We’re coughing the ball up too cheaply and not getting a chance to get our defensive structure in place early enough.”

Looking ahead Popovic noted that his team will be in action again on Saturday in Melbourne against Victory and knows there’s a tough game ahead for his players.

On this showing, however, Wanderers are running into form at the right time and will be very hard to beat for the remainder of the season, especially if the impressive Juric can stay fit and the other sidelined men recover soon. They do appear to have very good depth, both in attack and in defence.

Match details
Crowd: 15,786

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Ante COVIC (gk); Jerome POLENZ, Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), Matthew SPIRANOVIC, Adam D’APUZZO; Mateo POLJAK, Tahj MINNIECON (Kwabena APPIAH-KUBI +53′), Iacopo LA ROCCA; Youssouf HERSI, Shinji ONO (Jason TRIFIRO +73′), Tomi JURIC (Labinot HALITI +68′)
Substitutes not used: Jerrad TYSON (rgk), Dean HEFFERNAN

Yellow cards: Adam D’Apuzzo 36′, Tomi Juric 45′, Mateo Poljak 87′
Coach: Tony Popovic

Central Coast Mariners FC: Liam Reddy (gk); Storm Roux, Trent Sainsbury, Marcel Siep, Joshua Rose; Nick Montgomery, John Hutchinson (c), Michael McGlinchey; Marcos Flores (Mitchell Duke +61′) Mile Sterjovski (Nick Fitzgerald +30′); Daniel McBreen (Matthew Simon +77′)
Substitutes not used: Justin Pasfield (rgk), Zachary Anderson

Yellow cards: Nick Montgomery 67′ Joshua Rose 76′
Coach: Phil Moss

Ratings and points
Referee: Srebre Delovski 9/10
Game 8/10
Pitch 9/10

Player Points:
3. Matthew Spiranovic (WSW)
2. Tomi Juric (WSW)
1. Youssouf Hersi (WSW)
By Corinthian (Paul Green)

By Corinthian

Photo: Archive (Lowenna Rappo)