A great team wide performance was the catalyst for a clinical Western Sydney Wanderers to take home all 3 points with a 2-0 win in Brisbane tonight.
The 2-0 win sees the Wanderers jump into the top 6 pending the rest of the round, with a game in hand & some winnable fixtures coming up they might be on pace to make a tilt at the top 4. With injuries, suspensions, player departures & youth national team call ups, Josep Gombau elected to play a 4-4-1-1 formation with Riera & Santalab up top with Lustica & Bridge on the wings, Kearyn Baccus & Chris Herd central with Raul Llorente filling in for Josh Risdon at right back with Clisby at left fullback, and the experienced central defensive combination of Thwaite & Cornthwaite screening for Janjetovic in goal.
Brisbane Roar had the better of the early stages, but their ineffective attack and inability to stay onside cost them any hope of making inroads into the scoreline. Corey Gamiero was perhaps unlucky to have been called offside just before the Wanderers opened the scoring but with the Roar racking up a total of 6 in the game it would be hard to blame the linesman if he got the tight decision wrong.
For their part the Wanderers stayed compact and rose into the game, their passing improving with Oriol Riera the standout with his back to goal play. The marquee striker began the move that saw him become the beneficiary of great work by Steven Lustica & Brendon Santalab. Lustica with the ball wide open on the right flank he hit a pinpoint cross into the 6 yard box. Santalab's diving header was on target and a wonderful save from Jamie Young happened to fall in the path of Riera and he couldn't miss from point blank range.
Brisbane tried to strike back through Corey Gamiero, who managed to keep himself onside in the 34th minute as he latched onto a long ball over the top of the Wanderers defence. As Thwaite & Llorente tried in vain to catch up, his shot was fired in from the edge of the 18 yard box but Vedran Janjetovic stuck out a left hand and held the ball to his chest.
Mark Bridge's selection saw him rise to the most capped player in Wanderers history and he celebrated with a goal before half-time. Once again Riera was the creator, picking up the ball on the edge of the area before finding Bridge with a penetrating ball into box that Bridge took a touch to get around Daniel Bowles before firing it past Young at the near post.
The second half saw the Wanderers turn the screws on the home side and they had multiple chances to go further ahead. Riera found himself in open space at a free kick with a free header he could only put wide of the post. Lachlan Scott came on to play wide and combined with Riera & Santalab well. His best chance was late in the game with a fierce shot from a tight angle that couldn't beat Young.
For yet another game the VAR system appeared to fail at it's task of finding major errors. After some pinball at a corner, Massimo Maccarone lined up Brendon Santalab, ignoring the ball completely then cut open Santalab with a nasty elbow. Despite the video replay showing the incident clearly deserved a penalty and a red card, the VAR astonishingly declined to intervene. The attack didn't even result in a yellow card for Maccarone. If the shoe was on the other foot and it was Santalab who had cut open an opposing player I have no doubt at all that he would have been walking off the field & receive a long ban.
The Wanderers closed out the game well and kept the Roar from any major opportunities the win seeing them leap into the top 6 for now, with a game against Adelaide United coming up on Wednesday they might be looking to push into the top 4.