The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers suffered a nightmare Sunday as four goals from Wellington’s Blake Powell has condemned the Red & Black to a 5-2 defeat.A win or draw would’ve seen Tony Popovic’s side return to the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder but it was an efficient performance from the travelling Phoenix whose five goals equalled a quarter of the side’s total for the season prior to kick-off.
Meanwhile, it was a freakish evening for the Wanderers who conceded five goals for the first time in their short history.
Wellington, who had not won any of their last nine fixtures, took a surprise lead after only four minutes. The former APIA Leichhardt man Powell scored his fourth of the season after an inviting cross from Tom Doyle snuck through a sleeping Wanderers defence with Powell on the spot to acrobatically head past a stranded Andrew Redmayne and into the roof of the net.
The Wanderers fashioned several quick-fire opportunities in response to Powell’s opener but the Phoenix frontman was on hand once more to smash home a superb second on the counter-attack to stun the hosts.
Once again it was Doyle leading the Phoenix charge down the left whose cross was flicked on by Hamish Watson and ruthlessly dispatched by Powell who unleashed a sublime half volley from outside the area.
Despite struggling to make an impact on the game, the Wanderers had their fair share of first-half opportunities. Romeo Castelen was denied by the foot of the post after Mark Bridge’s tempting cross found the Dutchman lurking at the back post before a save of the highest quality from Glenn Moss prevented Dario Vidosic from tucking a Mitch Nichols’ cross into the bottom corner.
That ended an astonishing first half that saw Wellington only have three shots but lead 3-0.
The Wanderers came out of the blocks in the second half desperate to rescue something from the encounter with Popovic’s decision to replace Jacob Pepper with Brendon Santalab telling of the mountain his side had to climb. The move nearly had the desired effect when the super-sub pounced on a delightful reverse pass from Vidosic but could only blaze wildly over the bar.
Santalab’s miss summed up the day for the Wanderers who dominated possession and created several presentable opportunities but were unable to find a clinical edge in front of goal.
There were no such problems for Ernie Merrick’s men who were in dreamland after Powell glanced home a header at the back post for his fourth of the evening.
A long-distance special from Mitch Nichols and Mark Bridge’s ninth of the season restored a whisper of hope but any chances of a remarkable comeback were extinguished when Jonathan Aspropotamitis was dismissed for bringing down former Wanderer Kwabena Appiah in the box.
Michael McGlinchey slotted away the resulting penalty to draw a close to an extraordinary match and a result that will add an extra element of spice to the build up to next Saturday’s Sydney Derby.