Marquee man Oriol Riera scored in the last seconds of extra time as the Western Sydney Wanderers opened up Season 2017/18 with a late late show against Wellington.
Wellington came into the game with a number of first team players out hurt, leaving the Wanderers the strong favourites at home in Campbelltown. Western Sydney gave competitive debuts to marquee striker Oriol Riera, ex-Wellington attacking midfielder Roly Bonevacia, fringe national team defensive midfielder Chris Herd, veteran central defender Michael Thwaite, and flying fullback Josh Risdon.
After losing Marco Rossi in the warmup, and without Finkler, Fenton, Ridenton among others, the Nix were on the backfoot early, as the Wanderers controlled the tempo & possession in the opening 10 minutes. Steven Lustica fired in the first decent strike in the game, his right footed shot aimed at the keeper from 10 yards out in the 12th minute. Not long after Kearyn Baccus intercepted a ball in the heart of the Wellington defence and drove at goal, before shooting a weak effort that was easily saved.
Roly Bonevacia looked certain to score in the 22nd minute, as Riera, having followed the ball out to the right wing, lofted a magnificent curved chip over the Wellington defence, Bonevacia outpacing the cover defence but their keeper rushed out of goal and did enough to put off the ex-Wellington attacker. Just before the break Riera chested down the ball for Roly on the edge of the area, but his first time strike was launched into low earth orbit via the Wests Leagues club.
Not long into the second half and Cornthwaite should have opened the scoring from a corner. His run left his marker stranded, and with the ball dropping, the Wanderers captain hit a side foot volley straight at Lews Italiano, a meter either side and it would've been 1-0.
Jacob Melling & Riera both had chances off the head within moments of each other as the clock ticked to 78 minutes. Wellington had occasional chances although they lacked penetration and their final ball was often wayward. With time running low in regulation Rufer couldn't hit the target from outside the area, followed by a deflected shot from Bonevacia going wide.
With the game locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, the sides geared up for Extra Time and penalties if required. There were precious few chances in the first half of extra time, despite the players on both teams tiring with some going down with cramp.
Jacob Melling had another headed chance off a Bonevacia free kick, under pressure however the midfielder headed the ball wide.
In the dying moments Tom Doyle should have seen his marching orders as a result of a horrid lunging 'tackle' on Majok, only to receive a red card. The Wanderers free kick went out for a corner. Man of the Match Bonevacia stepped up, and delivered a delightful whipped ball to the 6 yard box. Marquee Riera rose like a Blue Mountains eucalyptus tree to meet with the ball with his head, knocking it home at the far post to win the game for the home side.
It was as much as the Wanderers deserved, as they comprehensively outplayed their trans-tasman opponents, with Wellington carved open repeatedly all night and rescued with last ditch defending. Riera & Bonevacia looked a cut above the pack, and combining for the winner was the cherry on the cake. Wellington will head home again from Campbelltown without a result, and have a lot of work to do before the A-League begins.