Wanderers snatch win in all-action derby

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 2013/14 – Round 14
7:30pm, Saturday 11 January, 2014

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Brendon Santalab 86′)

Sydney FC 0

This derby match was always going to be a thriller, played out before a capacity crowd and neither the players, nor the fans, disappointed.

It was action all the way, as both teams went out in positive mood to push for the win and explore all attacking options.

While Sydney FC had a couple of absentees, notably Joel Chianese, Richard Garcia and the suspended Nick Carle and Tiago Calvano, the Wanderers were hardly left unscathed, as they lost Mateo Poljak to a warm-up period injury, had right-sided defender Jerome Polenz coming to grief at training during the week and Shannon Cole, a former Sydney FC player, was yet to return from an enforced lay-off that has seemed interminable.

It was, in fact, another former Sydney FC player who had the biggest impact on the result, a 1-0 win secured by the second-placed Western Sydney Wanderers as they begin to give chase in earnest to clear leaders Brisbane Roar.

Brendon Santalab was that man, no longer looking remotely like the blond-haired surfie he once appeared, but a more mature and darker-thatched impact player.

Santalab had been in and out of the side for some months, injuries playing a major part in that, but had a say in how another recent Wanderers game panned out, having scored the only goal in his team’s 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory played just weeks before this explosive fixture.

And although Santalab’ contribution was crucial it was the debut at right-back of 16 year old Daniel Alessi that caught the eye the most, the schoolboy coming into coach Tony Popovic’s defence in place of the sidelined Polenz.

Another late change forced on the coach was the inclusion from the start of midfielder, Aaron Mooy, who had been originally named on the bench.

Similarly, Jason Trifiro, who was not even on the original team sheet, was pressed into action at the 43 minute mark when Iacopo La Rocca suffered an injury mid-match.

The two sides seemed evenly-matched throughout, despite Sydney being barely among the top-six sides before the whistle blew to start the game. Once it was over they dropped to seventh, giving the Wanderers a better chance of catching Brisbane, who went down 2-1 to Adelaide United earlier in the evening.

Western Sydney Wanderers were to prove a real handful for their Sydney visitors and incredibly struck the frame of the goal four times in the first-half, when chances began to pile up, yet were not taken.

Sydney were also on the offensive, Allesandro Del Piero, for once, appearing to have an appetite for more, even looking aggrieved when replaced at the 80 minute mark.

The Italian star was closely marked, as one might expect, but surprisingly the player who seemed closest to him for the longest time was the teen sensation Alessi.

Getting forward at every opportunity and showing composure on the ball, as well as a strong work ethic and tactical awareness, the student footballer made sure Del Piero knew he was there with some crunching tackles and a dogged determination to shackle the expensive Sydney marquee player. There may have been a high degree of respect from the youngster, but there was certainly no awe or fear.

Wanderers had Tomi Juric and Mark Bridge as their main attacking duo, ably assisted by the dangerous Youssouf Hersi and the skilful Shinji Ono.

Yet they weren’t the only team looking for goals by any means, Sydney’s sharp-shooting Serb, Ranko Despotovic, doing all he could, with Del Piero’s support and more assistance from Ali Abbas and Brett Emerton, to keep the Wanderers’ backline busy.

Matthew Spiranovic returned to partner Nicolai Topor-Stanley at the heart of defence at the expense of Michael Beauchamp, while wide man Alessi looked good on the ball and soon appeared to develop an understanding with his senior partners, the other flank occupied as usual by Adam D’Apuzzo.

With the crowd maintaining a constant buzz, chants, banner-waving and constant vocal initiatives to add to the atmosphere, both teams kept up a solid pace and it was true end-to-end stuff, a fitting description on this occasion, to use a term often bandied about recklessly.

After eight minutes Juric struck the left-post from 20 yards out, while Del Piero was able to find space, before taking his first shot in the 16th, though with nowhere near enough venom to trouble Ante Covic in the Wanderers’ goal.

Hersi was causing Sydney’s defenders a lot of problems with his willingness and proven ability to run at them and then move past with great self-belief.

In the 35th he sent Juric away, who in turn found Bridge, out wide on the left. The striker-cum-winger then angled his shot from wide out across the face of goal, with the ball brushing the far post on its way out. That was a real let-off for Sydney and it wasn’t to be the last.

In the 42nd Hersi cut into the centre and from 35 yards out elected to try and chip over Sydney keeper Vedran Janjetovic, succeeding only in striking the crossbar.

The ball came bouncing back into play and Juric was in the right place to put the loose ball away, but in his haste to go for power over precision managed to strike the underside of the bar, providing a second reprieve within a second or two for the visitors.
Mooy had a chance at the start of the second-half to break the deadlock, after finding some space and racing into the area, but blazed his effort well over the bar.

Bridge provided Ono with a 51st minute chance, but the Japanese playmaker couldn’t keep his header down.

Terry McFlynn started his first game for Sydney this season and played in a screening role in front of the back four, with either Matt Thompson or Emerton providing their assistance in mopping up the problems created by the solid midfielders at the Wanderers’ disposal.

McFlynn put in a good shift and almost scored one of his occasional goals, striking from 20 yards out with a low effort that only missed the target narrowly.

Despotovic and to a lesser extent Del Piero were finding the Wanderers’ defence too well organised to make much headway, the tall central men blocking anything remotely resembling a chance by putting themselves between that pair and the goal whenever necessary.

Santalab came on for Juric, himself not long back from injury, to give 30 minutes of fresh attacking legs to the home team and his combinations with Bridge and Ono, and to a greater extent still with Hersi, saw the Wanderers finally atone for their first-half foibles.

Hersi on the right made a good interchange of passes with Ono and the ball sent into the six-yard box needed a real striker’s finish and that was exactly what Santalab provided, sending the massed fans behind the goal into raptures.

The goal was celebrated by the former Sydney FC striker by running towards the Red and Black army of supporters (the RBB) who had been in great voice throughout the contest.

Coach Popovic took his time arriving at the press conference, post-match, but enlightened the media on the team changes forced on him by circumstances and explained how he arrived at his decisions on personnel.
“Daniel came in for Jerome as he’s been training with the team and showing up well, especially the last few weeks as he’s on his school holidays.
“He did great and we believe in the kid,” Popovic said, referring to himself, his coaching staff and the other players
“I’m sure he’ll never forget this one, where he made his debut at the age of 16.
“We defended very well, but we kept on believing,” the coach went on.
“We hit the post four times (bar and post to be precise) and we lost one player during the warm-up and another before half time. Derbies are difficult and this one was no different.
“Sydney played very well and made it hard for us.
“We’ve now got a big game in Melbourne on Tuesday and we’ll be trying our best to get the three points. We knew that we had to give 100 per cent today, just as in every other game.
“You don’t always win, even then, but you must give it 100 per cent to give yourself a decent chance and we did that tonight.

Frank Farina blamed a moment of failure to concentrate for losing the match.
“We switched off for a few seconds and that cost us the match,” he reflected.
“You can’t afford to switch off for even a second in this game.
“I thought we probably deserved a point tonight, with our efforts, though we got lucky in the first-half when they hit the bar a couple of times.
Sydney takes on Central Coast Mariners in their next match at the weekend, keen to revive their top six ambitions, having slipped in recent weeks.
“I was pleased with our performance tonight,” Farina said.
“Terry (McFlynn) hadn’t started this year and I was very happy with how he played.
So Sydney lost for the first time at Parramatta Stadium and are now losing ground in their quest to make the four. The game against the Mariners will mean a great deal to them.

The Wanderers’ focus will be on recovery and assessing their walking wounded before their Tuesday game in Melbourne and their Sunday game in Adelaide.

Match details
Official attendance: 18,080

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Ante Covic (gk); Daniel Alessi, Nikolai Topor-Stanley (c), Matthew Spiranovic, Adam D’Apuzzo; Iacopo La Rocca (Jason Trifiro +43′); Aaron Mooy, Shinji Ono (Tahj Minniecon +90′); Youssouf Hersi, Tomi Juric (Brendon Santalab +60′), Mark Bridge
Subs not used: Jerrad Tyson (rgk), Dean Heffernan

Coach: Tony Popovic
Cautions: Marc Warren (SFC) 80, Corey Gambeiro (SFC) 88, Terry McFlynn (SFC) 90’+3

Sydney FC: Vedran Janjetovic (gk); Pedj Bojic, Matthew Jurman, Nikola Petkovic, Marc Warren; Terry McFlynn (c2); Brett Emerton (Corey Gameiro +52′), Matthew Thompson (Chris Naumoff 68), Ali Abbas; Allesandro Del Piero (c) Dylan Caton +80′), Ranko Despotovic,
Subs not used: Ivan Necevski (rgk), Sebastian Ryall

Coach: Frank Farina
Cautions: Adam D’Apuzzo (WSW) 71

Ratings and points

Referee: Jarred Gillett 8/10
Pitch 8/10
Game 9/10

Player Points:
3. Youssouf Hersi (WSW)
2. Shinji Ono(WSW)
1. Matthew Spiranovic (WSW)

By Corinthian (Paul Green)