Wanderers stunned by strong Victory performance on Friday night

by Paul Green

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 17
7:50pm, Friday 19 January, 2018 – Sydney Olympic Stadium, Homebush Bay

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
lost to
Melbourne Victory FC 3 (Kosta Barbarouses 36′, 90’+2, Besart Berisha 68′)


Western Sydney Wanderers’ recent run of good results came to an abrupt end at the Olympic Stadium last Friday night when the rapidly-improving Melbourne Victory walked away with a comfortable 3-0 win.

Still trying to find some stability after the arrival of coach Josep Gombau and reeling from the departure a few days earlier of captain Robbie Cornthwaite, who returned to Malaysia to take up an offer from the Perak club, having previously turned out for Selangor in the Malaysian Super League, under the same Australian coach, Mehmet Durakovic, the Wanderers had some more reshuffling to do in defence and there was an air of uncertainty about them going into the match.

Jack Clisby took over in central defence from the departed Cornthwaite, joining veteran MIchael Thwaite in a defence which also welcomed back Josh Risdon and had Chris Herd in a shielding role in front of the back four.

Up front Oriol Riera and Mark Bridge did the hard work, while new signing Marcelo Carrusca had a holding position in central midfield as he was rushed into the team almost immediately, having joined the Wanderers just before their previous game in Wellington.

Victory looked every inch the improving team with Carl Valeri majestic as always in midfield and their own new signing, Terry Antonis, showing sound composure in front of the former Socceroo.

The real damage, however, was to be done by two veterans in the Melbourne side, who put their vast experience to good use with a majestic attacking performance of verve and imagination.

Free-scoring Besart Berisha had a very willing accomplice in Kosta Barbarouses, who has so often given opposition defenders a hard time.

Mark Milligan, who a few days later seemed intent on leaving Kevin Muscat’s side yet again for foreign pastures, was a key figure in the middle and the Wanderers, man-for-man, were probably on paper the more vulnerable of the two teams and so it proved.

Terry Antonis got through after only five minutes and it took smart work from Wanderers’ keeper Vedran Janjetovic to leave his line and smother a potential goalbound effort that could have set Victory on their way very quickly.

Valeri threaded a ball through for Milligan just three minutes later and Clisby and co knew they’d be kept pretty busy all night, with so many different Melbourne players of note to keep quiet.

Milligan’s volley was well wide that time and the same happened in the eleventh when Jason Geria got clear and fired just wide as well.

Finally in the 14th the Wanderers were able to test the opposition keeper, Matt Acton, with the industrious Roly Bonevacia stinging the palms of the youngster after a mazy run through from deep.

Carrusca, who’d been kept busy with more defensive duties got forward well in the 17th to meet Bonevacia’s cross but was wayward with his finishing, under pressure from defenders.

After a midfield tussle for another 20 minutes or so in which neither side could fashion any worthwhile chances, the turning point arrived in the 36th when Berisha won the ball in a strong tackle deep in the centre and spotted Barbarouses out wide on the right.

After cutting inside the entertaining wide player played a ball across goal and in at the bottom left corner, with a slight deflection aiding the ball’s passage.

Wanderers were not out of it even after that stunning setback and could well have levelled the scores in first-half stoppage-time when a corner from Steven Lustica reached the goalmouth and a quick turn by Riera saw a volleyed shot crash against the crossbar.

Having survived that scare Victory became much more dominant after the break and went on to score two more unanswered goals, although Wanderers were lively enough to challenge the steely Melbourne defence a number of times before Berisha made it 2-0 in the 68th.

Leroy George, so much in the news of late with his contributions to the Victory attack, provided yet another assist after springing the static Wanderers’ defence and laying on a pass for new Australian citizen Berisha to curl the ball into the roof of the net.

Having seen a Mark Bridge effort disallowed for a clear offside in the 48th and Acton forced to make a one-handed save to prevent his own defender Rhys Williams from turning Riera’s shot into his own net, it became clear that this was not going to be the Wanderers’ day.

Victory continued to fashion good chances, with Antonis and Barbarouses posing many problems and Berisha spurning another chance early in the half which could have finished the home side even earlier.

Barbarouses had another effort pushed away in the 81st minute by Janjetovic with the Wanderers trying to make the belated introduction of Brendon Santalab and Kearyn Baccus, on for Carrusca and Bonevacia in the 73rd minute, count, but not much was happening with the Melbourne rearguard, so full of experience and determination, having Leigh Broxham and Valeri working solidly to ensure the lead stayed a healthy one for the visitors.

All-out attack by Wanderers to try and salvage a goal only led to Barbarouses capping a fine display with a superb strike two minutes into stoppage-time, a blast from 25 yards out that saw the ball fly into the roof of the net.

Confidence sky-high, then, for Kevin Muscat’s men as they contemplate their next assignment, a home game against Sydney FC, a match that could allow them to press even closer to the leading pair of Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets.

Wanderers, meanwhile, had plenty of time to work out their deficiencies ahead of a long trip to Perth on the weekend with coach Josep Gombau looking to fine tune his side, having one or two more options following the return of Brendan Hamill and Jaushua Sotirio.

The Wanderers won’t be at home again until Sunday 11th February so they’ll be keen to collect as many points on their travels as possible to maintain their top-six challenge.

Match details

Crowd: 11,864

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk); 3 Jack CLISBY, 4.Josh RISDON, 33.Michael THWAITE, 24.Raúl LLORENTE; 25.Chris HERD; 6.Marcelo CARRUSCA (11 Brendon Santalab 74), 8.Roly BONEVACIA (15.Kearyn BACCUS 74); 7.Steve LUSTICA (23.Lachlan SCOTT 64), 19.Mark BRIDGE (c); 9.Oriol RIERA
Subs not used:40.Nick SUMAN (rgk), 35.Tass MOURDOUKOUTAS

Yellow cards: Mark Bridge 21, Josh Risdon 28, Chris Herd 39

Coach: Josep Gombau

Melbourne Victory FC: 1.Matt ACTON (Gk); 4.Rhys WILLIAMS, 6.Leigh BROXHAM; 2.Jason GERIA, 5.Mark MILLIGAN, 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO (14 Thomas DENG 70); 24 Terry ANTONIS, 41.Leroy GEORGE (Christian THEOHAROUS 78), 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES; 8 Besart BERISHA (23.Jai INGHAM 86)
Subs not used: 40.Matthew SUTTON (rgk), 18.Matias SANCHEZ

Yellow cards: Rhys Williams 26

Coach: Kevin Muscat

Points and ratings

Referee: Adam Kersey 8/10
Assistants: James Tesoriero and Andrej Giev; Fourth Official: Kurt Ams
Video Assistant Referee: Mathew Cheeseman

Match: 7/10
Pitch 8/10

Weather: Warm and dry

Player points:
3. Kosta Barbarouses
2. Carl Valeri
1. Leroy George