The Western Sydney Wanderers went down 2-1 in their opening game of the International Petroleum Investments Company Championship in Abu Dhabi this morning (AEST).
An opportunistic long-range strike, and a powerful back post header, saw the Bahrain champions, East Riffa, take the match in sapping 40 degree conditions.
Despite a host of chances in the second half, the A-League outfit couldn’t find an equaliser.
The championship is seen as an ideal opportunity for the Wanderers to build match fitness ahead of the club’s AFC Champions League semi-final against FC Seoul in Korea on September 17.
The Wanderers started brightly following three days training at the NAD Al Sheba sports complex in Dubai.
Several attacking raids from the front four of Vitor Saba, Steve Kuzmanovski, Brendon Santalab and Romeo Castelen, getting his first competitive football in the Red and Black, resulted in a string of early corners.
However it was East Riffa who managed to make the early break with a long range strike from Mohamad Jafer flying into the roof of the net following some powerful lead up play from Miladine.
Fast feet from Kuzmanoski sent Santalab through on goal late in the first half but while his lofted attempt evaded the onrushing East Riffa goalkeeper the ball hit the left upright.
The Wanderers came out stronger in the second half and got their goal after Nikolai Topor-Stanley drove the ball forward before moving it to Santalab to cutback to teenager, Alusine Fofanah, who deftly lifted the ball into the back of the net.
The second half opened up with the intense heat allowing more space for both teams to find gaps.
Romeo Castelen unleashed a powerful drive only to see it hit the side netting following some good movement from Saba.
But East Riffa regained the lead when Mamado scored off a deep free-kick at the back post, powerfully heading past Bouzanis.
Fofanah almost notched up his brace when Perkatis lobbed the ball into his path but with the young midfield man through on goal he failed to find the target.
With minutes left in the game Perkatis was again on the ball and his deep cross found an unmarked Brendan Hamill, whose shot sprayed centimetres wide of the goal and the equaliser.
Next up, the Wanderers take on Al Jazira FC on Sunday.
East Riffa Club 2 (Mohamad JAFER 12’, MAMADO 61’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (FOFANAH 50’)
Wanderers starting line-up: 20. Dean Bouzanis (30. Thomas Manos 70’), 2. Shannon Cole, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (c) (6 Antony Golec 62’), 18. Iacopo La Rocca (5. Brendan Hamill 55’), 15. Yianni Perkatis, 23. Jason Trifiro (8. Mateo Poljak 75’), 31. Alusine Fofanah, 17. Romeo Castelen (14. Kwabena Appiah 60’), 10. Vitor Saba (19. Mark Bridge 70’), 34. Steve Kuzmanovski, 11. Brendon Santalab (7. Labinot Haliti 60’)
Players not used: 1. Ante Covic, 4. Daniel Mullen, 13. Matthew Spiranovic
PHOTO: Western Sydney Wandererscomments