We’ve been winning pretty all season but our match against the Roar showed we can still grind it out. Here’s what we learnt in our 2-1 win.Wanderers show they can win without the ball
Tony Popovic’s side’s mastery of the ball has been the underlying dynamic of the Wanderers’ superb recent run of form. In wins over Perth, Newcastle, Melbourne City, Wellington and Central Coast, the Wanderers have comprehensively dominated the opposition, averaging 57.2% of the ball over the past five games, out-shooting their opponents 75-41 and creating 64 chances to the opposition’s combined 28.
They’ve been on the front foot consistently against teams who have predominantly defended deep and provided a tightly knit resistance. The Wanderers have been intelligent, probed persistently and been clinical enough to eventually burst through the oppositions’ barricade with three quarters of their goals scored arriving in the second half.
But against John Aloisi’s high-flying Brisbane, Popovic’s side were second-best in most areas of the pitch, with Roar gaining both the foothold in possession (53.5%), chances (7-4) and shots (10-7).
It’s just the second time this season the Wanderers haven’t dominated the ball (although there were many sequences of strong possession play), with the other occasion being the 1-1 draw with Adelaide where the Red & Black held 42.6% of possession.
Although they weren’t at their exciting best, perhaps this sixth win of the season is the one that Popovic will be most satisfied with as his men demonstrated they haven’t lost an inch of their miserly, backs-to-the-wall defensive grit.
Defence in good shape
The boss was eager to praise his defence after the defeat of Brisbane, and our sixth win on the trot highlighted that while the likes of Andreu, Nichols and Bridge have attracted praise from all quarters, the back four are performing to a high standard when called upon.
With Scott Jamieson and Scott Neville bombing forward to great effect and Nikolai-Topor Stanley and Alberto striking up a good understanding in the centre, the Wanderers are boasting one of the steeliest underbellies in the competition.
This was evidenced for all to see against Brisbane, where the Wanderers rear-guard had to be at their best all season to thwart a dangerous Roar side. The Wanderers have now conceded just eight goals all season, the second least in the league behind Sydney. They’ve also conceded the second least shots on goal (22).
Popa and the boys know how to close a game out
Ok, perhaps we’ve known this for a while but after defending yet another one-goal advantage late in the game for the fourth time in six matches, Popa’s Wanderers sure know how to see out the closing stages of a match.
Brendon Santalab often takes on the mantle of the gaffer’s super-sub but a special mention ought to go to Popovic’s favourite defensive shield in Jacob Pepper who was once again instrumental in shutting up shop on Saturday. The midfielder made two vital clearances, an interception and a block in his ten minute cameo to deny Brisbane a sniff of a late equaliser.
Smart in possession, disciplined off the ball and committed until the final whistle, there aren’t too many heart in mouth moments for the Red & Black faithful. We’ve suffered from late heartache in the past but it seems there’s no breaking through the Wanderers resistance at present.
Clinical King Bridge
Handed a starting berth up front in the absence of Federico Piovaccari, Bridge continued his superb patch of form with another goal in a committed all round performance.
The club’s leading goal scorer is in a ruthless spell at the moment – he’s yet to register a shot off target all season with all eight hitting the mark, and three finding the net – in just 322 minutes of action. That’s a top class 0.84 goals per 90 minutes – a ratio superior the league’s leading goal scorer Bruno Fornaroli (0.7 goals per 90 minutes).