The Western Sydney Wanderers performance was far from perfect but they managed to overcome a spirited Hellenic Darwin FC team with a 4-3 win in Darwin tonight.
The Wanderers dominated the opening stages and it did not take long to cement their dominance into a lead on the board. 7 minutes, a Wanderers corner kick was played to the near post where the Hellenic defender Ross Billias flicked the ball over the head of his despairing keeper for 1-0.
It did not take long for Western Sydney to double their lead. Brendan Hamill found an acre of space in the middle of the pitch and he strode forward into the Darwin penalty area. After playing the ball ahead he was scythed down by a defender and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot. Marquee striker Oriol Riera stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake to make the lead 2-0.
Bruce Kamau down the right wing and beat his defender all ends up, his cutback found Kosta Grozos who made a mess of his shot. Nick Fitzgerald had the next best chance, having coming on for Grozos who took a knock after a poor challenge, he fired into a Darwin player.
Hellenic had nothing at all on the ball and so resorted to thrashing away at the Wanderers players. In addition to Grozos getting his head knocked off, they hacked out at Roly Bonevacia and Oriol Riera earning multiple players yellow cards.
Darwin hit back after a period of lackadaisical play by the visiting team. A horrible mix up at the back saw Brendan Hamill stepping up and completely failing to stop a ball over the top that Tass Mourdoukoutas had an air swing at, giving Darwin captain Daniel Smith a saloon passage to knock the ball past Danijel Nizic making his debut for an A-League club. The sides headed into the break with the match delicately poised at 2-1 to the Wanderers.
A horrific error from Danjiel Nizic gifted Hellenic an equaliser. Kearyn Baccus took out a Hellenic player in an awful tackle wide but deep inside the Wanderers half. Hellenic's Nepalese wunderkind Sulav Maskey launched a long free kick that was completely misjudged by Nizic and it glided over his head into the back of the net.
After weathering the Hellenic storm the Wanderers took a practically undeserved lead in the 67th minute. With one of their first major attacks of the half, Bruce Kamau split the defence with a through ball for Nick Fitzgerald his ex-Melbourne City team-mate. Fitzgerald kept onside and found a cut-back to Oriol Riera who couldn't miss from a meter out.
The undeserved lead was wiped away instantly with Maskey scoring his second of the game. Tokich hit a header to no-one in the middle of the pitch, it fell to a Hellenic midfielder and he split the Wanderers inept defence with a wonderful through ball against a defence back on their heels. With Maskey heading in on goal, Nizic made another mistake by rushing out of the area, getting caught on the edge of the area in no man's land and getting lobbed for 3-3.
Nizic should have had his night ended with a horror moment in the 80th minute. The Wanderers were caught square in defence yet again, and yet again Nizic steamed out of the area, he was late to the ball and watched it nodded over his head, before obliterating the Hellenic player in front of him. Brendan Hamill managed to clear the ball off the line to save his side from going behind. The referee ruled a corner when it could easily have been a penalty and a yellow if not red card for the keeper.
Fatigue set in for Hellenic deep into stoppage time and the Wanderers took advantage to score the winner. A Nizic long bomb fired forward found the head of Riera, his knock down was run onto by Kamau and the pacey winger cut back to Bonevacia who was unmarked on the 6 yard box and he buried it to take a late 4-3 lead.
One word to describe the victory was lucky. The Wanderers were completely outplayed by an amateur team, the midfield was bullied off the ball and the likes of Grozos & Tokich were invisible and played no major part in the game. The debut of Nizic could easily have resulted in a send off to go with his two mistakes that cost the side goals. The positives were Riera in an otherwise disinterested display making the most of his best chances, and Nick Fitzgerald who came on in the first half and showed more intensity than the rest of the team combined.
Had the Wanderers matched up with any of the A-League clubs or a larger NPL club that effort would have been a losing one. Instead they went into the Round of 16 draw where they were drawn to play against local team Bonnyrigg White Eagles.