Western Sydney Wanderers have held off a fast-finishing Melbourne City to win a pulsating top-of-the-table clash 4-3 at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.
The Wanderers looked to be cruising as they raced to a 3-0 lead with less than 25 minutes remaining thanks to Mitch Nichols’ opener and a brace to Mark Bridge.
But City weren’t done, scoring twice in two minutes via Harry Novillo and Bruno Fornaroli to set up a frantic finish.
And the drama wasn’t done there. Anthony Caceres was sent off with five minutes left before Brendon Santalab looked to have made the points safe in the final minute.
Again City responded with Erik Paartalu pulling one back deep into stoppage time but the Wanderers held on to extend their lead at the top of the ladder to five points.
What a game!
1-0 Nichols (32’) – Bridge got the ball about 30 yards from goal and played a delightful no-look pass for Nichols, who surged into the box and finished brilliantly past Thomas Sorensen.
2-0 Bridge (60’) – A superb counter-attack by the Wanderers had them with a 3-on-2, with Bridge releasing Nichols on the right. Nichols got into the box and weighed up his options, choosing to cut the ball back to Bridge who smashed it into the top corner. A great goal!
3-0 Bridge (66’) – Dario Vidosic lobbed a perfect pass over a City defence caught horribly square, with Nichols chipping it over an advancing Sorensen. Bridge followed through to ensure it went in, sliding through and finishing it high into the net.
3-1 Novillo (76’) – Mooy sent Novillo through on the right with the Frenchman turning Nikolai Topor-Stanley inside out before piercing a shot across Andrew Redmayne into the bottom corner.
3-2 Fornaroli (78’) – Mooy again was involved, finding Fornaroli just outside the box on the left. The Uruguayan then curled a delightful shot into the far top corner, giving Redmayne no chance. Another ripper from the league’s top scorer.
4-2 Santalab (89’) – Romeo Castelen sprung the offside trap to be one-on-one with Sorensen and unselfishly squared it to Santalab for a simple tap-in.
4-3 Paartalu (90+3’) – Mooy swung in a teasing free-kick from the left, with Paartalu getting a slight touch on it to divert it past Redmayne.
Just before the half hour mark Wanderers keeper Andrew Redmayne showed great courage and athleticism to deny Aaron Mooy an excellent scoring chance.
Novillo’s long-range strike hit a defender and ballooned high up into the air, and looking like it would fall nicely to Mooy to get a volley on goal.
But Redmayne came flying off his line to get a glove on the ball before Mooy could strike and the danger was averted.
Two minutes later Nichols pounced down the other end and the Wanderers were in front.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
-The Wanderers have extended their unbeaten home run against Melbourne City [Heart] to six matches.
-Despite being on the wrong end of the score, City had more shots at goal than the Wanderers 12-11.
There was a lot expected of this top-of-the-table clash between two attack-minded sides and it’s fair to say the contest lived up to the hype.
Both teams went at each other from the outset, flowing from end to end with chances galore to keep the crowd of just under 15,000 on the edge of their seats.
It had a little bit of everything, some cracking goals, a brilliant fightback and a touch of niggle, just what we love about the Hyundai A-League.
If this is an indication of what’s ahead, it’s going to be a thrilling climax to the regular season.
City were dealt a huge blow inside the first four minutes, with skipper Patrick Kisnorbo forced off with a leg injury.
Already on a yellow card, Caceres put in a silly challenge on Brendon Santalab, leaving referee Shaun Evans with little choice but to show a second yellow and send him off. It basically ended any hope the visitors had of getting an equaliser.
THE FINAL WORD
Despite the late scare, the Wanderers made a huge statement in disposing of the prolific City, taking another huge step towards their goal of winning the Premiers’ Plate. If they can keep that intensity and ruthless streak in front of goal they showed in the first 75 minutes, Tony Popovic’s side will be very hard to stop. Another huge test awaits though next weekend, heading to Melbourne to play Victory.
The last 15 minutes aside, it was a bad day at the office for John van ‘t Schip’s troops. Again their defensive deficiencies were punished and whether he goes for three or four at the back, the problem persists. City will be expected to bounce back in a big way against struggling Newcastle Jets next weekend.
Westerns Sydney Wanderers: Redmayne (gk), Neville, Alberto, Topor-Stanley (c), Jamieson, Andreu (Baccus 71’), Dimas, Vidosic (Santalab 80’), Nichols, Sotirio (Castelen 74’), Bridge
Melbourne City: Sorensen (gk), Kisnorbo (c) (Clisby 4’), Malik, Melling, Franjic (Retre 69’), Paartalu, Caceres, Zullo (Garuccio 69’), Mooy, Novillo, Fornaroli
Scorers: Nichols 32’, Bridge 60’, Bridge 66’, Novillo 76’, Fornaroli 78’, Santalab 89’, Paartalu 90+3’
Red cards: Caceres 85’
Yellow cards: Andreu 28’, Bridge 31’, Clisby 57’, Caceres 65’, Caceres 85’
Conditions: 27C, Overcast and humid
Attendance: 14,820 @ Pirtek Stadiumcomments