Wanderers back on track

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

A-League Season 2013/2014 – Round 16
7pm, Sunday 26 January, 2014 – Parramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 3
(Brendon Santalab 29′, Aaron Mooy 34′, Mark Bridge 71′ pen)
Perth Glory FC 1 (Shane Smeltz 56′)

After a few disappointing showings, especially with the home loss to Wellington Phoenix and the loss in Melbourne, midweek, against Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers returned to their best with a comprehensive 3-1 win over an industrious Perth Glory at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday evening.

The starting eleven for the red and black shirted team raised a few eyebrows as, after a few weeks of naming a changed backline which included any two of Nicolai Topor-Stanley, Michael Beauchamp and Matthew Spiranovic, flanked by Adam D’Apuzzo and Jerome Polenz, coach Tony Popovic utilised his men creatively once more, all three central defenders starting the game, albeit with Spiranovic sitting in midfield in front of the back four.

D’Apuzzo and Polenz were both absent and their places taken by returning Shannon Cole and apparent fringe defender, Dean Heffernan.

Also missing were star striker Tomi Juric and crowd favourite Mateo Poljak.

But this made little difference as the backline looked well in control despite needing quick re-introductions before kick-off and Spiranovic took to his new midfield screening role like a duck to water.

Fans on Australia Day lapped up the quality of the fast-paced game, with their heroes like Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi delighting with their speedy running and fast passing game, as Mark Bridge gave good support to striker Brendon Santalab from his wide position.

The man whose names was not mentioned, however, but who shone the brightest was Aaron Mooy, a man the subject of transfer talk and apparently unsettled at one stage, with his lack of regular outings.

Mooy was involved in everything and was the perfect foil to Spiranovic, who focussed more on defensive duties, compared to the effervescent Mooy.

Now and again Spiranovic got forward too, being instrumental in at least one of the three goals scored by the well-supported Wanderers.

Santalab was denied by Perth keeper Danny Vukovic in the seventh minute after Ono and Hersi had combined to set up the team’s in-form hit-man.

A minute later Glory had another lucky escape, following an Ono corner on the right, when defender, Riley Woodcock, booted off the Perth line, when shots from Ono and Hersi had been blocked and then a follow-up effort from Santalab looked like finding the defenders out.

Vukovic continued to represent the biggest stumbling block to the Wanderers’ hopes of an early breakthrough, saving with his feet at close range from Santalab after the Ono-Hersi pairing had put the striker into a one-on-one, in the 21st.

But the flood gates finally opened eight minutes later after some uncertainty in the Wanderers’ rearguard.

Taking the bull by the horns after a potential turnover of possession by an uncertain defence, Spiranovic elected to take the ball forward from deep, laying on a diagonal pass to Bridge out wide on the left.

Bridge whipped in the cross sublimely and two Wanderers’ men arrived at the far post to meet the ball, Santalab sliding in ahead of Hersi to steer home the opening goal.

A free-kick won five minutes later and 30 yards out might normally be taken by marquee man Ono, but Mooy, clearly feeling confident, took charge, reducing his Japanese team mate to the role of spectator, this time.

Mooy lined up his shot and with the aid of a big deflection off the wall managed to beat Vukovic to make it 2-0 and he looked as if he meant it, such was his glee at the outcome.

It made Perth’s task much harder after that second goal and all they could offer was hard work and trying to use the speed of Chris Harold and the known predatory instincts of New Zealand’s veteran striker, Shane Smeltz, to try and fashion a comeback.

It could have been 3-0 at half time, but a stoppage time shot from Santalab after a swift counter-attack, failed to beat Vukovic, who once again proved too resilient.

Ono, a top playmaker in almost every match he turns out in, but not a proven finisher, failed to make the most of Mark Bridge’s quality service in the 53rd, foiled by another piece of Vukovic alertness and know-how, saving what eventually was a meek effort by the popular Ono.

Perth rallied after that and Steven McGarry began the move that led to Glory’s only goal in the 56th.

He picked out Harold who was on his way from the centre towards the left side of the area.

The wide man then crossed smartly for known poacher, Smeltz, to drive the ball home from close range and keep the Wanderers on their toes.

Their coach, Tony Popovic, even suggested that conceding a goal at that stage might not have been a bad thing, as his players gave him the reaction he was looking for.

There were more chances for Wanderers through the agency of Ono and Santalab, without a third goal being added, but soon enough it arrived, in the 71st.

Shannon Cole, marauding up-field from his nominal right back position, managed to trap Glory defender, Woodcock, into making an awkward challenge which resulted in Cole falling inside the penalty area.

Referee Srebre Delovski was well place to decide that a spot-kick was warranted.

Bridge showed his usual composure to drill the ball past his old mate, Vukovic, who guessed the right way, to his left, but could not prevent the well-struck shot finding the net.

At 3-1 Perth were too far away from a rescue mission after that Bridge finish, but Smeltz did at least make a good fist of meeting substitute, Nebojsa Marinkovic’s, cross in the 84th, the Kiwi seeing his header fly just over the bar.

Glory coach, Kenny Lowe, did not seem too surprised about the game’s outcome when he met the media, post-match.
“It should have been a few more than two at half time,” he said.
“Danny (Vukovic) was outstanding. Wanderers were faster, stronger and more powerful than us, but I’m proud of my young team’s performance.
“I know that (William) Gallas was hurting about the loss, he’s a very proud man and hates losing.
“He had to leave the field early on as he lost his contact lens, but he lasted 78 minutes this time and his fitness is improving every week.
“We wanted to play a pressing game, but we found it difficult to cope with the Wanderers who are a very good side. I don’t think many sides would come here and beat them,” he ventured, perhaps forgetting their most recent home loss to Wellington Phoenix.

Popovic was also “really pleased” with his team’s performance.
“Some of the football we played tonight was outstanding,” he said.
“Shinji Ono was excellent and the whole team was outstanding, too.
“The goals we scored were tremendous.
It’s hard to see how Wanderers can play so well, with so many squad changes and yet look so untidy as they did in Melbourne when going down to Victory, 3-1 on a midweek visit.
It can only be the crowd factor. It definitely lifted the team on this occasion and Popovic was quick to acknowledge that.
Perth can take comfort in knowing that Smeltz went the distance and took his chance with the kind of finish he has always been renowned for.

Match details
Official attendance: 14,111

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Ante Covic (gk); Shannon Cole, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Michael Beauchamp (c), Dean Heffernan (Daniel Alessi +90′); Matthew Spiranovic; Youssouf Hersi (Tahj Minniecon +81′), Aaron Mooy, Mark Bridge; Shinji Ono, Brendon Santalab
Subs not used: Jerrad Tyson (rgk), Jason Trifiro
Coach: Tony Popovic
Cautions: Shannon Cole 58 (WSW)

Perth Glory FC: Danny Vukovic (gk); Joshua Risdon, Michael Thwaite, William Gallas (Jack Clisby +78′), Riley Woodcock; Chris Harold, Steve McGarry, Jacob Burns (c), Sidnei Sciola Moraes, Cameron Edwards; Shane Smeltz
Subs not used: Jack Duncan (rgk), Matthew Davies,
Coach: Kenny Lowe
Cautions: Sidnei Sciola Morales 23 (PG), Joshua Risdon 47 (PG), Shane Smeltz 90+3 (PG)

Ratings and points
Referee: Srebre Delovski 6/10
Pitch 9/10
Game 8/10

Player Points:
3. Aaron Mooy (WSW)
2. Youssouf Hersi (WSW)
1. Shinji Ono (WSW)

By Corinthian (Paul Green)