Wanderers go down to a revitalised Roar

by Paul Green

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 9
5:35pm, Saturday 2 December, 2017 – Sydney Olympic Stadium, Homebush Bay

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
lost to
Brisbane Roar FC 2 (Massimo Maccarone 45′, Ivan Franjic 66′)


The gloomy weather and a disappointingly small crowd of just over 8,000 at the Sydney Olympic Stadium set the scene for a home team loss against a Brisbane Roar side keen to provide a response to coach John Aloisi after their meek effort the previous week against champions Sydney FC.

Western Sydney had a game to forget, losing two strikers inside the first half hour, one in unusual circumstances, conceding moments before the break, having made a strong start when all of their players were on deck.

First they lost star man Oriol Riera, who had figured prominently over the opening ten minutes without being able to break through, and who walked off the field unaided after eleven minutes before strolling down the players’ tunnel.

His withdrawal didn’t seem to come as any surprise to the Wanderers’ bench and they immediately sent on veteran goal poacher Brendon Santalab, but the loss of the younger man was surely felt throughout the team.

Jaushua Sotirio had also been in the thick of things early and had been getting good service from Joshua Risdon and Alvaro Cejudo, but he too couldn’t make much of his opportunities, with his crosses eluding his team mates and his own finishing not sharp enough to trouble an alert Brisbane back line and keeper Jamie Young.

Sotirio was the next to leave the scene, in fact, coming off after only 35 minutes and with no further attacking players coach Josep Gombau elected to send on out and out defender Jack Clisby to fill the void. Clisby had a strong game, playing out wide, but the loss of their two attackers meant that Santalab had to play mostly alone up front and had scant reward.
It was a good stroke of fortune for the similarly under-strength Roar who have been down on numbers for weeks now and are well below their optimum strength.

But they still have ample experience, none more so than evergreen captain Matt McKay, pulling the strings in the centre in his usual effortless fashion. He and the likes of Eric Bautheac and the skilful Massimo Maccarone showed good composure and not a little style as they guided the very young players elsewhere in the team, some of whom had probably never expected to see so much game time so early in the campaign.

Brisbane Roar took the lead as half-time beckoned, a nice piece of work in the air just inside the penalty area seeing the ball float across to Maccarone whose athleticism was brought into play as he volleyed home, left-footed, from wide on the left of the six-yard box.

It was clinical finishing and gave Wanderers’ keeper Vedran Janjetovic no chance.
Wanderers had succumbed to what was effectively the first real Roar chance on goal, having enjoyed a far greater share of possession.

The second-half expectations were still high for home supporters and the Wanderers, with no options on the bench that might inject sufficient creative spark to fashion a comeback, relied on their possession game and potential mistakes from Roar to defenders to claw their way back.

It was going fairly well and even a stumble in the penalty-area by Santalab, following a first- half corner on the right, had given supporters hope that a penalty might be awarded by referee Adam Fielding, but there was no clear-cut defender’s infringement to earn that and the second-half offered little to get excited about.

The best Wanderers might have hoped for with the Brisbane defence so resolute and the midfield being controlled more and more by the visitors was a draw, but such was the home team’s luck on this dismal day that they couldn’t even manage that.

In what proved a tremendous substitution, former Socceroos wing-back, Ivan Franjic, was sent on in the 65th minute to replace young Petros Skapetis who had shared the attacking duties with Maccarone and Bautheac.

In an unfamiliar role up front, but probably sent on to tighten the rearguard as much as for any other reason, Franjic was able to score the second goal of the game and in sensational style.

He’d barely arrived on the scene before taking a couple of touches out wide on the right and when no Wanderers’ player closed him down 25 yards out he deliberately curled a shot into the top left corner of the net, with the confidence of a man with vast experience and an obvious eye for goal.

It proved the clincher and naturally Franjic thereafter settled back into a more customary role deeper in defence, though still on the flank.

Brisbane Roar never looked like losing after that and in reality the Wanderers’ goose had been cooked once the first goal went in and after the two key strikers had departed the scene.

Mystery still surrounds the disappearance of Riera so early in proceedings, with conflicting stories surrounding his condition.

Wanderers’ coach Josep Gombau said little other than that he’d wait for the medical report and alluded to an injury rather than illness. Similarly he has concerns surrounding Sotirio, who did receive treatment, but who, like Riera, will be needed next weekend if the Wanderers are to turn things around against a rampant Sydney FC at the same Olympic Stadium venue.

The rain and the slippery pitch may have exacerbated things for both strikers and it was noticeable that players from both teams had difficulty keeping their feet, especially in the first- half. Whether that was a contributing factor or not is hard to judge.

Gombau kept a positive stance post-match saying that he was happy with the team’s progress since he came to the club a few weeks ago and offering no real criticism of their performance.

“We’re getting close now,” he offered.

John Aloisi praised his younger players for stepping up so well over recent weeks and indicated his satisfaction with the way they have responded to the lack of experience around them for much of the early weeks of the season.

He praised Franjic for his work, as well, commenting that his vast experience will be invaluable to the team even at this late time in his professional career.

Match details

Crowd: 8,215

Western Sydney wanderers FC: Vedran Janjetovic (gk); Josh Risdon, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Michael Thwaite (c); Kearyn Baccus, Raul Liorente, Roly Bonevacia; Jaushua Sotirio (Jack Clisby +35′), Oriol Riera (Brandon Santalab +19′), Jumpei Kusukami
Subs not used: John Hall (rgk), Brendan Hamill

Coach: Josep Gombau

Brisbane Roar FC: Jamie Young (gk); Jack Hingert, Jacob Pepper, Daniel Bowles, Connor O’Toole; Joe Caleti (Mitchell Oxborrow +73′), Nicholas D’Agostino, Matt McKay (c); Petri Skapetis (Ivan Franjic +65′), Massimo Maccarone (Corey Gameiro +79′), Eric Bautheac
Sub not used: Brendan White (rgk)

Coach: John Aloisi

Points and ratings

Referee: Adam Fielding 6/10
Assistants: Owen Goldrick and Greg Taylor; Fourth Official: Ben Abraham

Match: 5/10

Pitch 7/10

Player points

3. Daniel Bowles (BR)
2. Matt McKay (BR)
1. Albedo Cejudo (WSW)