The Western Sydney Wanderers finally managed to pick up a shootout win after a tale of two halves in Blacktown tonight. Despite going through after a 2-2 draw in extra time, followed by a 4-2 shootout win, the Wanderers suffered the same tactical shortcomings that saw them finish 6th last season, including a glacial tempo in attack, poor ball control from Jaushua Sotirio, and wasting multiple set pieces with pointless, telegraphed short corners.
The match was only minutes old when the Wanderers took control. Jumpei Kusukami strutted into the penalty area before being chopped down by Yuta Kanagawa to give the Wanderers a shot from the penalty spot. Marquee striker Oriol Riera took the ball as a good forward should, and fired down the middle, beating Tristan Prendergast who had dived to his right.
Blacktown City had precious little ball in the Wanderers half, and they were lucky to not head into the break 2, 3 or even 4 goals behind. Roly Bonevacia in particular had two clear cut chances to double the lead, but his accuracy & composure was poor and he wasted the chances.
The home side sprang to life after the break, looking far better than their A-League opponents. The Wanderers had the ball deep in the Blacktown half, before a short passing move broke down and allowed Blacktown to break with a long ball over the top to James Andrew, he cut inside Jonathan Aspro and fired past Vedran Janjetovic. Despite looking the better side, Blacktown were very unlucky not to win the game in normal time.
Extra time added two more goals to the scoreline, Blacktown took the lead as their winger tore past a static Josh Risdon, headed into the area & laid the ball on a gold platter for Andrew to pickup a brace with a tap-in.
Tony Popovic threw caution to the wind, adjusting his formation to a traditional 4-4-2, putting Lachlan Scott alongside Oriol Riera, and the combination eventually combined to build a successful attack. Josh Risdon launched a cross deep from the right flank, and marquee striker Oriol Riera rose once again to head the ball home, scoring his own brace, and drawing the two sides level.
The Wanderers couldn't find a winner, and Blacktown nearly stole it with a shot that squeezed under Janjetovic but was cleared right off the line, and the match went to penalties.
Blacktown fell apart in the shootout. Joey Gibbs blasted the first shot into low earth orbit & Daniel Arajuo failed from the spot with their second, while the Wanderers were clinical, Mark Bridge, Lachlan Scott & Steven Lustica setup a 3-2 lead for Riera to cap off his wonderful match by firing the winner past the outstanding Tristan Prendergast to send the Wanderers into the FFA Cup Semi-Final for the first time.
Straight after the game the draw was undertaken, and the two semi-finals will be South Melbourne FC of the Victorian NPL against Sydney FC, with the Wanderers hosting Adelaide United.