Mark Bridge has scored Western Sydney's first ever A-League goal to give the Wanderers a 1-0 win against the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
In front of a 12,663 strong crowd on a wet Brisbane night the Wanderers had the worse of the possession at 40% but the better of the territory at 57%. The 18 shots and 7 on target compared favourably to last weeks 19 shots for 3 on target and the better accuracy put the Roar under heapings of pressure throughout the match. The first chance fell to Aaron Mooy and he nearly scored after only 4 minutes, his volley from outside the area leaving Roar keeper Theo stranded but unluckily cracked off both posts and failed to cross the goal line.
Brisbane Roar had their first chance of the match just minutes later when Murdocca made a smart run down the left side before cutting it back for Halloran. Topor Stanley had tracked the run and blocked the shot, with a ricochet off Mooy allowing Covic to collect easily. Erik Paartalu drove a long shot from well outside his box but the shot was quite tame and Covic barely had to move.
Gibbs has his first involvement of the match when Ono made a smart short pass which opened up the angle for the young striker. His snapshot was blocked by Matt Jurman which conceded a corner. This set off a chain of corners for the Wanderers piling the pressure on the Roar defence. 4 in a row delivered all by Ono. The 6th corner of the match was taken short by Ono to Hersi, who measured a pin-point cross on his right foot. Bridge ghosted in at the front post, and made his unmarked header count to take the lead. A Paartalu mistake lead to an immediate chance for a second to Bridge, Mooy passing to Ono who flicked it on to Gibbs who played a smart ball into the path of Bridge. Bridge mis-hit the shot and it flashed wide.
Gibbs then got past Jurman and tried to beat Theo at the near post but wasn't on target. Aaron Mooy earned a yellow card after he lost possession to Berisha and dragged the Albanian down. To end the half Berisha had the ball drop for him just inside the area, but his quick shot not only missed the target, but ran out on the opposite side for a throw-in.
To open the second half Mark Bridge had the ball sit up nicely when the ball came to him from Mooy. The resulting volley went well wide. Another attack started by a nice first time pass by Ono ended with Hersi taking a speculative long range effort. The ball dipped and swerved, Theo knocking it down for his central defender. With 55 minutes expired Berisha turned and beat a couple of Wanderers defenders then released Broich who spun the ball wide to Halloran. He took on his marker but his touch was poor and again required him to stretch to make a tame shot at Covic. A Bridge interception allowed Ono to try a long range drive but the Japanese international didn't get hold of the ball and it fell well wide.
With 15 minutes left to play, Hersi ran onto a clearance from a Wanderers corner. He hit the ball hard and well with his right foot and as the ball arrowed in on goal Theo made an exceptional diving save to deny the Wanderers their second. Moments later Polenz tried another long range effort, no power and an easy save. With 10 minutes to go the Roar finally started to play like the Champions they are. Broich smashed a shot high after Henrique had his own effort blocked.
The Wanderers tried in vain to score a killer second, Aaron Mooy testing Theo from outside the box with a shot on the turn, and Mooy won the ball back high up the park and after some nice combination play in the box he shot directly at Theo. Brattan had a low drive deflected for a corner and Polenz blocked the Matt Smith header on the line and Topor cleared. Broich cut inside on his right but Covic saved well down low to his left.
In the dying embers of the game Beauchamp was given a yellow card after a poor first touch when the Wanderers captain tried to spark a counter-attack. It gave the Roar one final chance for a long-range free kick. Broich took on the duty but his powerful shot cannoned directly into the wall. With no further chances Referee Lucien Laverdure completed a very good debut in the A-League as a referee by blowing the final whistle to confirm the Wanderers first ever victory.
Tony Popovic will be a proud man tonight. Both his decisions to change the lineup worked superbly and he was tactically spot on through-out the match. Joey Gibbs as the Wanderers centre-forward pivot had the movement and pace that Dino Kresinger has thoroughly lacked, and Hersi showed remarkable improvement over his previous efforts. The defence once again stood tall against the champions of last season and the midfield worked hard all night to contain the midfield threat of Broich and Berisha dropping deep. The players have made it hard for Popovic to make any changes to this lineup although I could see Kubi being replaced by Tahj Minniecon for the next match. The A-League really needs to get with the rest of the world and increase the number of substitutes to 5 or even 7 for next season.
The Wanderers kept the Roar under immense pressure the entire match and broke with pace and purpose when given the opportunity. This win will signal a warning to the other sides in the league that they cannot underestimate and take the Wanderers lightly. As the Wanderers team and tactics gel further they will continue to improve their attack and this could mean that the Roar are the first of many high-profile scalps this season. This performance was one worthy of a finals place and if they can keep up this level of competitiveness I have no doubts that Western Sydney could feature in the final series at the end of the season.
The Wanderers next match is against Melbourne Heart at Parramatta Stadium on Friday the 2nd of November at 7:30pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time.