Fireworks failed to ignite in dull draw

by Corinthian (Paul Green):

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 14

7:30pm, Thursday 1 January, 2015 – Parramatt Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
drew with
Central Coast Mariners FC 0

Those who turned up at Parramatta stadium on New Year’s Day expecting to see fireworks were to be gravely disappointed as two struggling teams, who had once been Finals’ series combatants, failed to ignite in front of a crowd below 15,000 despite pre-game talk of a sell-out.

It may have been a Grand Final rematch, but it had more in common with the first meeting between the two teams which also finished scoreless, a match that was played during the Wanderers’ Asian Champions League campaign, one of only a few that the Western Sydney team managed to squeeze in during the early part of the season.

They’re still looking for their first win, while the Mariners are still looking for their second, having just the one win from their first home game of the season against nearest-neighbours Newcastle Jets.

They may have scored three in their last match against Brisbane Roar, but the Mariners were unable to penetrate the Wanderers’ defence at all this time, though in many ways they showed more drive at times than their opponents, when going forward.

Central Coast coach Phil Moss brought Mitchell Duke back, after a sound cameo performance the previous match and it was an inclusion that offered some promise.

Duke looked menacing at times and was good on the ball, but neither he nor another comeback man, Matt Simon, could fashion a goal, while at the other end the Wanderers found the Mariners’ defence far more secure than they’d looked against Brisbane.

“We decided to change a few things for this game,” said Moss.

“We elected to be more direct and I think we did quite well in that respect. We were denied by some good saves from (Ante) Covic, a kind of double save from him though his first attempt was a bit of a fumble, before he recovered to keep us out.

Strong at the back for the Mariners were Eddy Bosnar, who featured in some set-pieces as well, alongside regular centre back Zac Anderson.

A revelation, however, must have been right back Jacob Poscoliero, whose last ditch tackle on marauding Wanderers international, Nikita Rukavytsya, definitely kept the visitors in the game.

Later in the match, after a pretty sound display, the former NSW State League player intervened with a block and a clearance as the Wanderers threw everything at the Mariners in an attempt to gain a breakthrough.

The crowd were very much behind the home side, jeering every refereeing decision which did not go their way and singing lustily throughout, but by the end of the game some of them had lost patience and began to boo their own players whose efforts they felt fell short.
Moss was the happier of the two coaches at the end, unsurprisingly.

“A point away from home is nothing to be unhappy about and we still have players out,” he observed.

“We’re going to bring in some new faces during the break and we’re looking at the UK and Holland for overseas talent as well as bringing in another local player.

“It’s in the attacking area that we want to strengthen,” he explained.

“I think our midfield is working well and we have Nick Montgomery still to come back, so I don’t think there’s any issues we need to deal with there. We need someone to put the ball in the back of the net and that’s what we’ll be looking at.

The lack of goals and the lack of wins is something Wanderers’ coach, Tony Popovic, is acutely aware of.

“Yes, it is frustrating to see us go another game without a win and no goals,” he admitted.

“But the clean sheet was pleasing and we did have a few players out as well.

“We’re getting there, I think. We are playing alright and we didn’t get the win our efforts deserved and the same goes for the game in Wellington,” he noted.

“We played well in that match, for a change, as we are usually quite flat in Wellington, but this time we were much, much better. We got nothing from that game and we definitely deserved something.

One bright note for his side in this New Year’s Day game was the effort from Nick Kalmar, who looked very cool on the ball and capable of being a major influence in the team, after playing 65 minutes in this match.

He’s more of a holding midfielder, usually, but played ‘like a number 10‘ according to some knowledgeable observers.

Once he settles down with his new team he could provide the spark they’ve been missing and the absence of Tomi Juric, on Socceroos’ duty, Brendon Santalab, suffering a shoulder injury which may keep him out only until February now, plus a few unsettled players has made it hard for Popovic to get his team playing to their potential.

They were also missing Matthew Spiranovic here, another on Socceroos’ duty, while youngster Yianni Perkatis, who made his season debut in Wellington in the previous match, showed up well in the midfield on this occasion.

He’s a good prospect,” said Popovic, “and I was pleased with his efforts today.

Mark Bridge toiled well on one flank and looked perhaps the more likely of the Wanderers’ players to be a game changer, while Labinot Haliti was also tireless down the other wing, though lacking as much penetration as Bridge.

John Hutchinson’s contribution as the screener in front of the back four was never more evident than late in the game when he executed an obvious foul to deny the Wanderers, taking a yellow for the team in his own inimitable style.

That tackle, right near the end and in front of a solid back-line, may have been the one ultimately that saved a point for the travelling team.

Match details

Crowd: 14,137

Western  Sydney Wanderers FC: 1. Ante COVIC (GK); 2.Shannon COLE, 18.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4 Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), 6.Antony GOLEC; 8.Mateo POLJAK,  15.Yianni PERKATIS (23.Jason TRIFIRO 77); 33 Nick KALMAR,  7.Labinot HALITI (36 Michael TRAJKOVSKI 86), 19.Mark BRIDGE, 12 Nikita RUKAVYTSYA
Substitutes not used:  20. Dean BOUZANIS (rgk), 32 Daniel ALLESSI

Cards:   YC – Anthony Golec 33, Iacopo La Rocca 59, Shannon Cole 85

Coach: Tony Popovic

Central Coast Mariners FC:  12. Liam REDDY (gk), 4 Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5.Zac ANDERSON, 25.Eddy BOSNAR, 3. Joshua ROSE; 7.John HUTCHINSON (c);   11.Nick FITZGERALD (23.Isaka CERNAK 82), 15.Matthew SIM (18.Glen TRIFIRO 65); 10.Anthony CACERES; 9.Mitchell DUKE, 19 Matt SIMON
Substitutes not used:  1. Matthew NASH (rgk), 2. Storm ROUX, 17. Richard VERNES,

Cards:  YC – Matthew Sim 36, Eddy Bosnar 85, John Hutchinson 90

Coach: Phil Moss

Points and ratings

Referee:    Srebre Delovski  8/10
Assistants: Sarah Ho and Lance Greenshields
Fourth Official: Chris Young
Match  5/10
Pitch  7/10
Player points:
3. Mark Bridge (WSW)
2. Jacob Poscoliero (CCM)
1.  Mitchell Duke (CCM)