The Western Sydney Wanderers A-League season is over, with a 6-5 penalty shootout loss after a 1-1 draw against Brisbane Roar.
After a first half where both goalkeepers produced stunning saves to keep the score at 0-0, just seconds before half-time Avram Papadopoulos clattered into Brendon Santalab from behind, with referee Jerrad Gillet pointing to the spot. Terry Antonis stepped up to the mark and blasted his shot through the hands of Michael Theo to make it 1-1.
The visitor's lead only lasted until the 55th minute. With the Wanderers attack stunted by an uncalled handball from the Roar, they picked the ball off the Wanderers and went straight up field on the counter. Thomas Broich passed to Borello, and the young winger rolled his shot into the goalpost. Fortunately it rebounded straight to Jamie Maclaren and he made no mistake with the empty net.
In the final seconds of regulation time Brendon Santalab delivered a sterling cross from deep & wide and substitute Jaushua Sotirio should have put the Wanderers into a Sydney Derby semi-final. Instead Sotirio blasted the shot into the stands.
During extra-time, the game turned to Brisbane's favour as a result of a truly moronic brain snap from Sotirio. Already on a yellow card from minutes after he arrived in the 87th minute, he harshly followed through with an incredibly late tackle on Corey Brown. He was instantly shown his second yellow card and the following red. It put the Wanderers on the backfoot and it was only a miracle that the Roar couldn't put the game away on the field.
As a shootout loomed, the Roar were forced into making a goalkeeping substitution, with Michael Theo being replaced by Jamie Young, as a result of a coming together between Theor & Antonis in a scramble for a loose ball.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 after 120 minutes of frentic finals football, it fell to the penalty shootout to separate the teams. Dimas won the toss but against all conventional wisdom elected to shoot second. Each team scored their penalties, with Borello, D'Agostino, Maclaren, Devere & Kristensen all succeeding, and for the Wanderers it was Antonis, Dimas, Nico, Hamill & Cornthwaite.
Sudden death loomed, while Tommy Oar made no mistake, Jumpei took the 6th penalty, never looked comfortable, then fired it straight into the palms of Jamie Young.
The match followed the pattern of so many contests this season, with the Wanderers being dominant with possession but doing nothing to trouble the opposition keepers.
Tony Popovic massively failed in his recruitment this season, keeping Dimas instead of Andreu, while signing 3 massive flops as foreigners, the only mildly successful import was Nico. Even he was relatively subdued compared to the imports from other finals teams. After bringing back Bulut, the fan favourite was pointlessly turfed back out again after a handful of matches. Then after failing to sign a sorely needed foreign striker in January, Ryan Griffiths was picked up, did nothing and will leave without making any meaingful impact at all.
If Popovic is to remain as the Wanderers coach, he needs to sharpen up his scouting skills quicksmart, and get sent on a course that shows him how to play football without using multiple defensive midfielders. This season only picked up a modicum of momentum after the attack killing Dimas & Pinatares combination was sidelined, simply because the rest of the midfielders in the squad will often move towards the opposition goal after getting the ball, not backwards.
This was a stop-start season where any hope of winning the Premiership was lost in week one with a 4-0 thrashing by Sydney FC. Next seasons squad needs to be in winning form from week one. No "we are looking better every week" after a loss. No "that player is getting adjusted to our conditions" when they fail to perform. If Popovic cannot deliver a winning side & tactics from the first league game, he should step down now. After all, he isn't going to get such nicety from owners of the foreign league clubs I assume he has ambitions to lead one day.
Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Friday 21 April 2017 - 7:50PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:50PM EST
Round: Elimination Final
Competition: A-League Final Series
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Stadium: Suncorp Stadium
Click here to view the record
A rotated Wanderers lineup completed a second half-comeback to draw 2-2 in Adelaide, and in the process secured the A-League seasonal draw record with 12 draws.
Tony Popovic elected to bring back failed foreign players Aritz Borda & Bruno Pinatares, as well as giving places to Keanu Baccus, Abraham Majok, Mario Shabow, Stefan Zinni & Steven Lustica. The changes didn't help the Wanderers in the first half, as Adelaide took control of the game and grabbed the advantage after 8 minutes when Artiz Borda gave away a silly penalty with a diving tackle against Eli Babalj. Marcelo Carrusca stepped up to the stop and calmly sent Vedran Janjetovic the wrong way.
Just before half-time it went from bad to worse for the visitors as Adelaide profited from an offside goal to Dylan McGowan. Having failed to clear a corner, the ball bounced to Sergio Cirio who smashed the ball back across goal. Despite the Video Review system being in place, the man in the booth declined to overturn the clearly offside goal. It was the second mistake from the VAR booth, as they also let Iacopo La Rocca rugby tackle Ryan Griffiths in the penalty box but go unpunished.
Nico Martinez should have found a goal with two glorious chances. In the 18th minute he sent a curling shot centimetres wide, then in first half stoppage time had a penalty. La Rocca with a clear handball from a Shannon Cole cross, but Eugene Galekovic dived to his right to keep out the poorly taken, stutter step run-up penalty shot.
The Wanderers started their comeback after an hour, as Lustica thumped a free kick off the crossbar, with Delgado in the right place at the right time and heading into the empty net for 2-1.
La Rocca finally give away a much earned penalty in the 73rd minute as Cole was absolutely pole-axed by La Rocca, with the Wanderers winger sent flying. Lustica stepped up with Nico off the field, and took his penalty with aplomb, burying it in the corner. The last 10 could have gone either way, the final moments of the game seeing Adelaide denied a late winning for a correctly given offside call.
The Wanderers final position will depend on the final games of the round, while Adelaide have a couple of Asian Champions League matches to look forward to before their season is over.
Adelaide United vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Saturday 15 April 2017 - 7:20PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:50PM EST
Competition: A-League Regular Season
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Stadium: Coopers Stadium
Click here to view the record
The Western Sydney Wanderers 2017 Asian Champions League campiagn is all but over following a 3-2 loss in Campbelltown tonight.
The clash between the 3rd & 4th placed teams was a goalfest, as both teams needed to win to keep a realistic hope of progression from the group stage.
FC Seoul took the lead in just the 4th minute. After a wide free kick was headed poorly back across the top of the 18 yard box by Shannon Cole, it reached Hwang Ki-Wook who laid off a simple ball into the path of Lee Seok-Hyun, who sent the ball rocketing into the back of the net giving Janjetovic no hope at all.
They doubled their advantage several minutes before the break after Scott Neville was judged to have taken down FC Seoul's Brazilian import Maurinho. The replayed showed the penalty was soft at best, and a clear dive at worst. Dejan Damjanovic took on the responsibility and his perfect penalty nestled into the side netting despite Janjetovic picking the right side.
Damjanovic had his brace in the 71st minute, up against Brendan Hamill the Montenegran international made Hamill look like a schoolboy, turning him inside & out before firing past Janjetovic at the near post.
As time began to run out, the Wanderers put a goal on the board, with Antonis hitting a Jumpei cutback past the keeper for 3-1. Having scored a goal, the Wanderers finally lifted their intensity, but took far too long to get a second on the board.
In the 92nd minute Nico Martinez lifted a cross into the penalty box, finding Lachlan Scott who hit a bullet header into the top corner. Replays indicated he was probably offside, but the goal stood.
With only a minute or two left on the clock, the Wanderers were unable to prevent Seoul keeping the ball down the wrong end of the field, and were unable to put together one last attack.
If the Wanderers are to progress from the group stage with ACL tie-breakers being Head To Head Results before any Goal Difference is applied, they will need to win both their final matches against Urawa and Shanghai, to beat one of those teams by 5 goals and for that team beaten by 5 to lose their other remaining game.