The Wanderers faced Brisbane Roar in a must-win game to keep what small hope of playing in the A-League finals in Parramatta on Sunday, completing a 2-0 win over a gallant but overmatched Brisbane Roar as Bernie Ibini & Bruce Kamau secured all three points.
Carl Robinson looked to turn around the Wanderers 3 game losing streak by making three changes. Mark Natta was replaced by Tass Mourdoukoutas, Tate Russell was dropped for Daniel Wilmering with Aquilina shifting to right fullback. As Mitch Duke departed the club following his national team call up & end of his loan spell his spot in the lineup was filled by Bernie Ibini. Brisbane had to rotate their squad and made four changes including starlet Dylan Wenzel-Halls suffering from an ingrown toenail coming out and dropping to the bench in favour of Alex Parsons.
The first chance of the game fell to Bernie Ibini, he was played through the middle in on goal but couldn't get free of the defence and his shot was easily blocked. The second chance was for Bruce Kamau moments later, who was played in by Keanu Baccus, looking offside in the live action, he finished well past Jamie Young but after a quick VAR review the goal was cancelled out. Brisbane had their own similar chance as Wilmering was caught ouf of position, a turnover exposed the space in the left flank and Riku Danzaki ran onto the ball, attempted a lob over the top of Daniel Margush but he stuck out the hand and knocked it over the bar.
Brisbane began a counter-attack in the 16th minute, Joey Champness finding Danzaki in the middle, who moved it on to Parsons. After standing up Ziggy Gordon he fired through, getting a slight deflection that had Margush worried for a moment before he dealt with the shot by turning it aside for a corner.
Jamie Young had to adjust quickly when Graham Dorrans cut onto his favoured right foot and blasted a long range shot that flew off the feet of Macaulay Gillesphey, the keeper quickly moving his feet to leap at and turn behind the shot. The corner somehow fell past everyone into the 6 yard box but none of the attackers were in the right spot and the Roar cleared it away. Young was on the spot again when Steven Ugarkovic launched an incredible ball over the top on the turn, Baccus had broken the front line coming deep from the midfield but couldn't get the ball over or around the onrushing Young.
The Wanderers finally found the goal their play deserved in the 27th minute. Aquilina carried the ball into the Roar half, he found Ibini outside the edge of the penalty area, he turned, and with no closing down coming from the Brisbane defence he fired a speculative shot from the tge of the area, he was perfectly placed and powerful enough that Jamie Young was well beaten to make the score 1-0.
Seconds before half-time Danzaki had yet another identical chance, receiving the ball on the right from Parsons, cutting side and shooting. Margush dived early, perhaps mislead by a deflection but kept his boot out just enough to stop what would have been a cruel equaliser. The last action of the half came as former Wanderer Scott Neville's right footed, fierce strike from a long way out had Margush beaten but not the near post, hammering the camera position behind the goal.
Wilmering came off at half-time for Russell, a tactical switch for a player on a yellow card with Aquilina going back to his usual left fullback position. A minute into the half the Wanderers went on the attack, Ibini took advantage of a slip from Corey Brown to play in Baccus who got around the defence only to slip over himself as the ball rolled toward the byline. The game eased into a slower tempo than the first half, but one that the Wanderers dominated. On the hour mark Dorrans and Ibini both had shots blocked away, Ibini having a golden chance after a corner that was played short that the Roar couldn't clear away. His left footed volley went wide. Keanu Baccus put the ball in the back of the net after tangling with the defence and knocking it past Young with his knee but the offside flag went up and ruled it out.
Tass Mourdoukoutas cut out a ball into the box with a diving stretch, Aquilina then began a lightning attack after beating two defenders with the ball and changing the point of attack with a diagonal ball for Russell. He played in Ibini and his cutback needed the block from the Roar to prevent a tap-in for Baccus. 15 minutes to go and the Roar should have equalised. A diagonal cross found Danazki, he nodded it into the path of substitute Cyrus Dehmie, with McGowan tripping over it looked like Dehmie would burst the back of the net only to have Gordon & Mourdoukoutas to fly in from the sides to make a vital block. Kamau then tore through the Roar defence, skipping past three attackers then shooting on his left, wide at the far post.
Margush had to go down low to his left once again with Dehmie staying on his feet and shooting low to the near post. From the resulting corner Jay O'Shea recovered the clearance and then won another corner on the far side. The next corner was blocked on the line by Dorrans, and the third Neville just outjumped Gordon but hit his header wide. With Mourdoukoutas down hurt on the turf Roar somehow managed to miss equalising. With the empty space left defending against 10 men, Rahmat Akbari played in Kai Trewin, his cross found Danzaki and he somehow conspired to mishit the tap-in under the pressure of Russell and also managed to avoid rebounding it off one of the Wanderers for an own goal.
After threatening all game to score, Kamau made Neville look amateur to give the Wanderers a 2-0 lead. Picking up the ball deep inside the Roar half Kamau bought the ball down from his chest, found a stop-start dribble to get around Neville and lofted the ball over the the right shoulder of Young before running off to celebrate with the fans behind the goal. The Roar threw numbers forward late including the keeper going forward for several corners but nothing came from them after 6 minutes of stoppage time. Supporters of the Red & Black would be wondering where performances like that were all season long rather than when the season was on the line. The win was the minimum required to keep the finals hopes alive, and the team were boosted by the 2-2 draw between Wellington & Perth earlier in the day. The next result that needs to go the way of the Wanderers is that Macarthur cannot win their game on Monday night against Western United.
The Wanderers final game of the regular A-League season is against Adelaide United in Adelaide on Thursday June 3rd with kick-off at 7:35pm Sydney time.