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  • The Western Sydney Wanderers faced in form Melbourne City in a clash in the Victorian capital in a match that would determine who would take the mantle of the mid-season Premiership favourite with a win in this top of the table six pointer. City ran out comprehensive 4-1 winners as the Wanderers had an early lead killed by some inept officiating, before Maclaren, Nabbout and Noone sealed the three points.

    The home side made an injury enforced change with Adrian Luna coming into the side for Nuno Reis, pushing Rostyn Griffiths back into defence. Carl Robinson rewarded the team which demolished Perth Glory by naming an unchanged starting 11 and bench as last Friday's 3-0 win. Daniel Wilmering, the Wanderers left back would be playing his first game after signing his 2 year professional contract mid-week. A 2-0 win for the Wanderers would propel them into first place on the ladder, albeit with the Central Coast Mariners having a game against last placed Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

    Melbourne City kicked off and spent the first 2 minutes camped on the edge of the Wanderers area. An early corner was punched away hard by Daniel Margush as the Wanderers struggled to maintain possession for more than 2 passes. Curtis Good hit a looping header from a corner that had Margush very worried with the ball just dropped onto the crossbar and out for a goal kick. Margush was called into action in the 10th minute as Andrew Nabbout controlled the ball with his arm, then cut inside onto his favoured right foot and blasted a shot at the near post that Margush turned away for a corner.

    The Wanderers finally had their opening attack of the night as Duke intercepted a wayward pass and released Bernie Ibini, the striker running down the right channel and attempted to loft the ball in the penalty area only to kick it well over the goal. Jamie Maclaren had his first take at goal, he beat his marker from a corner that landed in the area of the 6 yard box and gave Maclaren a free hader that he nodded wide.

    Western Sydney had an unlikely, against the run of play lead in the 21st minute through Bernie Ibini. With Melbourne in possession, Daniel Wilmering started a high press deep in the City half, and forced a turnover that Mitch Duke attacked the byline with, he then crossed to the far post where Ibini rose magnificently to stuff the header in the back of the net. The Wanderers had barely had a shot on target up to that point.

    Luna should have equalised moments later when he got on the end of a Craig Noone cross, at point blank range all the Uruguayan could manage was to stick it in Margush's breadbasket. The goal opened up the game, with the Wanderers finding their feet in the game. Wilmering was stepping up in attack again, finding high quality crosses at seemingly every turn, including providing another chance for Ibini that didn't have the power as the goal.

    Melbourne City had an assist from the referee for their equaliser in the 33rd minute. After a questionable foul on the edge of the box, the referee Alex King told the Wanderers players to get back, including Tate Russell who was in position to block any pass forward, allowed WSW to start to prepare a wall, only to allow an extremely quick free kick to be taken that had the Wanderers completely unprepared. Margush was in no man's land trying to prepare the wall and it sailed over his head.

    It bought back memories of Jarred Gillett stealing points from the Wanderers back in 2016 when unlike tonight, the Wanderers were allowed to play on, scored through Mark Bridge, only for Gillett to change his mind and call back the goal. Tonight the referee not only failed to call back the goal, he then went over to remonstrate with Carl Robinson who was rightly furious at both the officiating and Jamie Maclaren's diving antics.

    The City goal killed all the momentum the Wanderers had built into the game, with City knowing they had the ref on their side kept harrassing and fouling the Wanderers without punishment. City were handed numerous soft fouls. One of them Alex King finally decided he'd tell everyone to wait for his whistle, which was hardly useful for the Wanderers under the circumstances. The sides moved into the dressing rooms locked at 1-1 at half time.

    City took the lead in the 51st minute, a wide Noone cross making it's way to the far post and being blocked home by Andrew Nabbout. There were questions over a handball action but as usual for goals against the Wanderers, the VAR didn't bother checking it for more than a few seconds if at all. Noone scored City's third in the 55th minute, smashing a close range shot past Margush. 

    It went from bad to worse for the Wanderers, and the quality of the officiating in the 60th minute. With a bouncing ball in midfield, Mark Natta was shoulder charged recklessly by Nabbout who wasn't even close to make a challenge on the ball. The hard contact from shoulder to head sent Natta slamming into the pitch. Despite the obvious foul, likely concussion and clear yellow if not red card attack, Alex King let play continue without a foul or stopping the game for the injury. City attacked down the left wing and took advantage of the space in the middle, Luna tucking away a cross at the far post. The VAR responded not by calling back the goal for the foul on Natta, but instead for an offside.

    Maclaren scored the sealer in the 92nd minute to make it 4-0. A poor defensive clearance at a corner had the ball fall to Maclaren and he shot from near the penalty spot and thumped it into the roof of the net.

    As poor as the officiating was, the 2nd half was utterly pathetic from the Wanderers. The lack of effort was summed up by the reaction to Natta being floored. Carl Robinson on the bench seemed to show more emotion and anger, with the players on the pitch letting Nabbout pass without so much as a shove, a shoulders or a hard tackles to remind Nabbout that he was in a football game. City completely dominated the 2nd half, the attacking talent Robinson bought on the pitch couldn't even manage a single shot on target. It was just reminder of how much work the club still has to do to get back into the frame for a return to the top 2 and a Grand Final run.

    The Wanderers next game is against Brisbane Roar on Saturday April 3 with kick-off at 7:10pm. It is set for Dolphins Stadium in Queensland, assuming the pitch has recovered from the flooding that saw a match there this weekend postponed. 

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