Western Sydney's match against Perth Glory was a tale of two late goals, as strikes to Labinot Haliti before half-time and Nick Ward as full time approached meant the two teams each took away a point from their encounter at Pattersons Stadium in Perth.
The Wanderers were looking for their 4th straight win, and their second win over Perth this season. Tony Popovic made 6 changes to the team that defeated Adelaide 6-1 last Friday, with marquee Shinji Ono not even making the squad, presumably to rest before the New Year's Day match against Melbourne Victory.
On 22 minutes a training ground move nearly paid off for Western Sydney. Jason Trifiro hit a corner across the box to Aaron Mooy. The first time volley flashed to the far post. Jacob Burns got his head in the way, which was lucky for Glory as Gibbs was lurking at the back post and would have had a simple chance to head it home.
Mooy was in the wars after the drinks break as Liam Miller crunched him in a sickening tackle from behind in the typical thuggish manner of Perth Glory. Miller, who had just lost the ball with a poor first touch, slammed into the Wanderers play-maker, in a tackle that could easily have been given a red rather than yellow card. It caused a lot of discomfort for Mooy, forced him off the pitch for a long period and clearly hampered his movement through-out the match.
The key moment in the first half came on 38 minutes. Mateo Poljak strode through the centre of the Glory midfield, then found Labinot Haliti. The wing-forward cut inside Joshua Risdon and struck a sweet shot with his right foot. It cracked off the post, Vukovic had no chance and that was the opening goal to the Wanderers. Haliti celebrated by setting off on a long run to the small knot of Wanderers supporters who had made the long trip across the country, without doing his noted celebration of removing his shirt. It stung the Glory into action during the 4 minute injury time period and they had a number of shots at goal.
The next 40 minutes was devoid of clear-cut chances, Mooy hit a free kick into the Shed behind the goal, Nagai duplicated the space bound effort down the other end of the field. With time running out the Glory stepped up a gear, heaping pressure onto the Wanderers goal. The home side finally started acting like it, controlling possession and field position. The first warning sign for the Wanderers was Stephen McGarry getting in behind the Wanderers defence, his cross found Miller at the far post. Miller measured his header toward goal, it may have been going wide, Beauchamp wasn't sure so cleared it off the line.
Reece Caira made his A-League and Wanderers debut in this match as a 75th minute substitute for Trifiro who was suffering from cramp and the ex-Aston Villa youth prospect nearly fashioned a goal immediately after his introduction. Incidentally, his debut means only backup goalkeeper Jarrad Tyson is yet to make their debut Wanderers appearance. Young gun Yianni Perkatis flew to Perth as a spare reserve.
Thankfully the Wanderers held onto the 1-1 score-line and with the draw they jump up one position to 3rd place, equal on 20 points with Melbourne Victory but ahead on goal difference. Melbourne are still yet to play in this round however.
Feeling deflated is impossible to avoid after conceding so late. To take a draw from a match the Wanderers had lead for 87 minutes would feel almost like losing, and the solitary point for the draw is cold comfor for the long flight home. Tony Popovic rotated his squad in preparation for the next match and it could be argued that it cost the team two points. Perth Glory didn't play much better than Western Sydney did, with Ono and Hersi in the squad the result would have been far more likely to favour Western Sydney. Aaron Mooy also got a stupid yellow card and will be out of the vital 3v4 clash on New Year's Day and his absence will be sorely missed.
The Wanderers next match is against Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium, Parramatta, on Tuesday the 1st of January at 6:15pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time.