The VAR handed the Wanderers a priceless gift of a Mitch Duke he buried scoring the Wanderers a 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners in their Western Sydney Stadium A-League opener.
With the opening ceremony activities over, the 17000-plus Wanderers supporters filled the stadium with noise along with the sizeable contingent of travelling Mariners. An early injury to Tarek Elrich saw Daniel Wilmering come on with Daniel Georgievski swapping to the right flank, the fullback cutting inside in the 20th minute but his weak foot shot tamely went wide.
The Mariners opened the score in the 35th minute. A seemingly innocuous attack down the left flank by Jordan Murray result in the ball falling to the feet of midfielder Milan Duric, he lashed a shot at goal, it took a deflection that turned the shot from going over the bar to instead loop over the head of Daniel Lopar.
Western Sydney fought back well before half-time and they earned their equaliser through Captain Mitch Duke. The simplest of set pieces, the inswinging corner bought the Mariners undone. Pirmin Schwegler delivering a pin-point cross to the edge of the 6 yard box, Duke Rose high attacking the ball & flicking it on & under Mark Birighitti at the un-manned near post.
The Wanderers continued to turn up the heat, Kosta Grozos shooting from the edge of the area, forcing Birighitti into fumbling, Mo Adam was following in like any good striker does and his potential tap-in was smothered by a diving second save.
Georgievski was the catalyst for the Wanderers winner, he lobbed the ball into the penalty area for a Schwegler diving header back across goal, the desperate Mariners defence lashed a boot out, flicking it into the path of defender Dylan Fox who had stuck his arm out like a construction crane, making contact & giving the VAR a reason to intervene to send Duke to the spot. Captain Duke took the penalty well, sending Birighitti the wrong way and the Wanderers held on for the last 10 minutes, the perfect return to A-League football in Parramatta.
Western Sydney will face Melbourne Victory in Round 2, at the Docklands stadium on Friday, October 18th.