The Gombau Era began tonight for the Western Sydney Wanderers against Melbourne City with a 1-1 draw in Melbourne.
Melbourne City has the best of the opening opportunities, as the Wanderers were clearly struggling to adjust to the Gombau tactical regime. Western Sydney lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Kearyn Baccus as the lone defensive midfielder, and Roly Bonevacia & Mark Bridge playing together in central midfield. With Alvaro Cejudo on the bench due to injury, Gombau promoted Jaushua Sotirio to the starting lineup.
The best chance in the first half for the home side came from a horrid backpass by Raul Llorente, as his attempt at finding Vedran Janjetovic instead found Ross McCormack. The striker was in the penalty area unattended with only the keeper to beat. With all the time in the world McCormack could only find the boot of Janjetovic. Late in the half McCormack was given a shot from a free kick right outside the area, he curled the ball over the wall but it was met with another wonderful save from a flying Janjetovic.
The inclusion of Sotirio into the squad turned into a move of genius. With Osama Malik caught on the ball by Oriol Riera his defensive team-mate Llorente pounced on the loose ball, sending it along the ground for the run of Sotirio, who made the best of the ball being slightly behind him to send it through the legs of Eugene Galekovic, onto the woodwork, before the winger turned it home into the open net to open the scoring.
Melbourne City looked slightly the better side in the second half, and with the help of the VAR they were given a spot kick in the 55th minute. After Osama Malik booted the ball into Row Z, the ref awarded a goal kick, only to have the VAR overturn the referees decision & award a penalty for a foul from Llorente. After wasting a bunch of chances in open play, McCormack stepped up to the spot & sent Janjetovic the wrong way to equalise.
The last half hour was a see-sawing affair that Melbourne City given the benefit of the officials whistle on numerous occasions. The Wanderers pressed & probed for a winner but weren't able to find one, while City were unable to get past a stellar Janjetovic for a second time. The Gombau Era starting for the Wanderers with a draw, just like the Wanderers first ever game under Popovic against the Central Coast Mariners. The biggest tactical change came with the use of Baccus as a sole defensive midfield distributor, Alvaro Cejudo was deployed in the midfield and made a lot of good touches but it will remain to be see if that will be a permanent switch. All in all, a decent if not wonderful start for Josep Gombau as the Wanderers manager, but one that looks promising.