The Western Sydney Wanderers Asian Champions League campaign is over with a 6-1 loss against Urawa in Japan tonight.
Tony Popovic elected to change his formation, replacing the typical 4-2-3-1 with heavily defensive 5-4-1, with Hamill coming into to help out the defensive duo of Aspro & Cornthwaite. It didn't help much at all, as Urawa took the lead in the 12th minute. Muto got in behind Hamill, then delivered a cutback to Sekine and the young star delivered a sterling right footed curling strike that beat Janjetovic's dive.
Urawa doubled their advantage in the 17th minute, Komai flying down the right wing, then nailing a defensive splitting through ball for Zlatan Ljubijankic. Janjetovic was slow to come off his line, and the covering defence of Cornthwaite was nowhere near the striker when he toe-poked past the keeper.
It took until the 32nd minute for the Wanderers to even put a shot on goal. It came through Brendon Santalab, who attempted a shot from close to 40 yards out and deep on the right wing. It sailed harmlessely over the Urawa keeper. Their first dangerous shot came a few minutes later, with Scott Neville crossing in for Santalab to head the ball onto the crossbar.
Urawa recovered after this mild period of Wanderers semi-possession, to reassert their dominance minutes before the break. Urawa passed quickly from the central defence to midfield, Komai running onto a penetrating ball before his simple cut-back to give Tadanari Lee an open goal tap-in.
5 minutes after the break the Wanderers should have pulled a goal back. Baccus stole the ball after Cornthwaite bundled into an Urawa attacker, he launched an immediate ball straight down the guts of the Urawa defence, but Santalab lobbed the ball over the bar like a poorly taken pitching wedge at a golf course.
Jumpei Kusukami, having returned to his homeland, scored a fluke of a goal in the 64th minute, as he weaved around the Urawa defence then chipped the keeper, bouncing the ball on the cross bar and having it just cross the whole of the line.
What little momentum the Wanderers had was killed off in the 71st minute, Rafael Silva killed the game as a contest as he combined with Tatanari Lee to find himself in on goal, Silva beating Janjetovic with a tidy finish on his right foot. Silva scored against in the 80th minute, with a lightning counter-attack, Silva bringing down a chipped through ball, taking a single touch before slotting it past Janjetovic.
Urawa sealed the game with a sublime 6th goal, Silva & Koroki tore the Wanderers inept defence to shreds, Silva turning away from Cornthwaite in midfield, passing to Koroki, who laid it into the box for Silva, who with his back to goal, backheeled it magnificently, and with just the keeper to beat, Koroki's first time shot passed the ball into the side netting.
The Wanderers were demolished, taken apart, split in pieces, lacerated in defence by the Urawa strike force, and at the other end of the pitch, the Wanderers didn't even get the opportunity to do their usual routine of passing it around the penalty area before losing it. This was an utter hammering, a record loss in any competition, a match that Tony Popovic will not be able to wash away with his pithy quotes and "we are getting better every week".
The final game of the season is an ACL dead rubber against Shanghai SIPG at Campbelltown on Wednesday the 10th of May at 8pm. I call on the Wanderers to open the gates and let the fans in for free, as a show of respect to those who have watched the abysmal performances from their side this year.
Urawa Red Diamonds vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Wednesday 26 April 2017 - 8:30PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:30PM EDT
Round: Group Stage
Competition: Asian Champions League
Location: Urawa, Japan
Stadium: Saitama Stadium
Click here to view the record
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.