A goal of the season contender late on from Brendon Santalab rubbed out Besart Berisha's first half opener in a 1-1 draw in Melbourne tonight.
Berisha scored the opener in the 16th minute. From a Victory corner, he broke away from his marker, beating the cover defence to the ball, heading into the ground, with the b all bouncing past Andrew Redmayne.
Ben Williams once again decided that it wasn't enough for the two teams to be the centre of attention, and he stole the spotlight with a baffling decision in the 29th minute. As Scott Jamieson was preparing for an attacking free kick, Williams repeatedly to get his line marking spray all over the ball, moving it off the mark, and after Jamieson went to clear it away, Williams pulled out a yellow card.
It was yet another massively inept and egotistical display by the man in the middle, as he gave out cards like candy before finally getting to pull out his favoured red card against Alberto Aguilar late in the game. With Dimas Delgado suspended for picking up his 5th yellow card, and Andreu going off with an injury, the three Spanish imports may all be missing for the next match against Wellington.
The second half was all Wanderers. Camped in the Victory half, they laid siege to the goal of Danny Vukovic, and the goalkeeper was the only thing keeping the score level, with the lead up to the Alberto red card being a wonderful save from a powerful Topor-Stanley header.
Brendon Santalab however came on and took away what would have been a well deserved clean sheet. With the 89th minute taking on, Santalab went strong into a 50/50 with Bouzanis, who shied away from possible contact. Santalab cut back towards goal then unleashed a right footed strike from the top of the penalty arc, it flew like a rocket off the boot, swerving away from the keeper who had no chance at all.
It was a deserved equaliser for the Wanderers, and they were unlucky not to take a late lead through Topor-Stanley's header. As it stood in the end, Western Sydney are back in the first place, equal on 34 points with Brisbane who smashed the Mariners 4-0 earlier in the day, and 6 clear of both Melbourne teams and Sydney FC who make up 3rd to 5th.
Melbourne Victory vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Saturday 6 February 2016 - 7:30PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:30PM EDT
Competition: A-League Regular Season
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Click here to view the record
The Wanderers survived a late fright to jump 5 points clear in the Premiership race with a 4-3 win against Melbourne City tonight.
Western Sydney came into the 1v2 contest knowing they had yet to really hit their attacking stride, and City were on the back foot early as key central defender Patrick Kisnorbo went off with an injury. 10 minutes in Vidosic had the first real chance of the game, as a cross from Nichols took a slight deflection by Osama Malik that knocked the ball into Vidosic's chest.
Bruno Fornaroli should have opened the scoring in the 12 minute after being played in by Harry Novillo. Instead of the clinical finishing people had come to expect, he instead put a toepoke just wide.
Mitch Nichols made them pay, as he & Bridge combined on the half-hour mark. Bridge took receipt of a neat pass from Andreu, before laying a cute through ball for Nichols, who took a touch to evade the defence before rolling the ball past Thomas Sorensen. The 1-0 lead was taken into the break but the general feeling was that it would be a matter of time before more goals would flow for the league leaders.
The Bridge & Nichols combination doubled the Wanderers lead, this time with Nichols turning provider, his break down the right flank turning the City defence around. Bridge used a Vidosic run as a decoy, stopped in his tracks to receive a cutback from Nichols before blasting a powerful strike into the top right corner.
The 3rd was another Nichols & Bridge special, Nichols chipping Sorensen who had flown out to the edge of the area but missed completely, Bridge guaranteeing the goal with a tap-in from a meter out.
Melbourne City are a team noted for their individual brilliance in attack, and they began a comeback through Novillo who took on Topor-Stanley and finished with a pin-point shot to the back post, the second from Fornarolli who scored another of his trademark no lift curling shots into the corner.
Anthony Caceres, who joined Melbourne City on loan from global powerful Manchester City killed his new sides chances of taking anything from the game with his dismissal in the 85th minute, two yellow cards accrued from awful challenges.
Brendan Santalab gave Western Sydney more breathing room with his 89th minute tap-in, Romeo Castelen breaking the static City defensive line before working the angles for a cut-back to the unmarked Wanderers striker. City scored a late consolation through Erik Paartalu, who got the faintest of touches onto a City free kick, but it was too little too late for the his side.
The Wanderers head down to Melbourne next weekend for a Saturday clash with Melbourne Victory.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne City
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Friday 29 January 2016 - 7:40PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 7:40PM EDT
Competition: A-League Regular Season
Location: Parramatta, New South Wales
Stadium: Parramatta Stadium
Click here to view the record
A late winner for substitute Brendan Santalab against the Mariners has put the Wanderers back to the top of the A-League.
The clash of top & bottom looked to be a simple three points for the Wanderers, and the first half seemed to prove the theory. A dominant Wanderers outfit pressed and harried the Mariners defence, and when in possession, where completely untroubled by the youthful Central Coast squad. Just 11 minutes into the game the high press forced a turnover and a goal.
New Zealand international Storm Roux, being harried by Dario Vidosic & Mitch Nichols, seemed to be caught in two minds, producing a pass that was neither a backpass to the keeper nor a lateral pass to a defensive team-mate. Mark Bridge, who was playing up front with Federico Piovaccari dropped from the match squad entirely, gleefully pounced on the poor pass before firing through the legs of Paul Izzo to open the scoring.
Western Sydney should have gone into the half-time break up several goals, but as has been the case in recent weeks, the lack of a killer final pass stifled their attacking thrusts.
Central Coast came back strongly in the second half, gradually building up a momentum that reached a peak with the introduce of their marquee star, bringing Luis Garcia out of retirement off the bench. His ball down the left flank of the Mariners was latched onto by Mitch Austin, who turned a cross into the path of Josh Bingham, Andrew Redmayne had little time to react, and he spilled the ball out in front to the benefit of Fabio Ferreria who bundled the ball home.
Western Sydney regained their composure, reasserting dominance that was only kept at bay by desperate defending and tactical fouling from the home side. Almost inevitably it cost the Mariners their hope of winning the match. Their captain Nick Montgomery will serve his second suspension of the campaign, after his horribly mistimed lunging tackle that could have snapped Golgol Mebrahtu's shin. The straight red set the Mariners on the back foot for the remainder of the match.
All three of the Wanderers substitutes combined with Mitch Nichols to force the winner in the 87th minute. Mebrahtu & Mitch Nichols dogged pressing stole the ball from Michael Neil, Kearyn Baccus fired a cross into the area, Izzo spilled the ball right to the feet of Santalab and he fired the ball into the roof of the net, although for a moment it looked like it might have gone over the bar.
The win was well deserved for a dominant Wanderers, although once again there will be questions about their finishing and passing decisions in the final third. Facing Melbourne City next week will be a very tough test, and despite the win, they might not be at the top of the table pending the Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC match this coming Tuesday.