It was a case of what could have been for the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers in the opening Sydney Derby of the season.A deserved two goal lead was not enough for the Red & Black as a series of events saw Sydney FC finish the match with a favourable score line of 3-2.
As any Derby, the match was not without its controversial points with the Wanderers finishing the game with nine men and Sydney FC awarded a controversial off-side goal.
The match started in typical Derby fashion with a number of agricultural challenges flying in from both sides and it was the away team settling first and getting the reward.
With Sydney FC under immense pressure following a series of corners, Romeo Castelen, on his starting debut, took on his marker and beating him one-on-one fired in a cross that found an unmarked Mark Bridge.
The marksman finished with aplomb and sent half of the record 41,213 crowd into raptures.
The faithful did not have to wait long for their second as Sasa Ognenovski skied an attempted clearance high into the air. In a series of events that would not have been out of place in a Benny Hill serial, Janjetovic batted the ball into his own net in an attempt to catch the ball.
A brilliant 45 minutes from the Wanderers should have seen them go into the break two goals to the good but in the only minute of additional time Sydney FC got one goal back.
While the goal was unfortunate it was the equaliser in the second half that raised eyebrows as the offside Bernie Ibini was within playable distance of the ball before it finished in the net.
Ante Covic’s protests though fell on deaf ears.
At this stage the match was still in the balance and with the creativity of Castelen and Vitor Saba, who was enjoying an impressive starting debut, the match looked to be heading to an exciting finale.
This all changed when Saba’s night was cut short as his lunging tackle was deemed to have been dangerous with referee Kris Griffiths-Jones subsequently issuing him a red card. While Saba clearly got to the ball, this often does not come into consideration for these types of dismissals.
From there the Wanderers were on the back foot with Sydney FC using the width of the pitch to stretch and tire the remaining Red & Black players.
While it was a brave fight, the pressure eventually converted itself into an opportunity as Alex Brosque scored the winner for Sydney FC.
Hope was not still now lost but when Brendon Santalab was forced to leave the field due to injury and having already used all three substitutes, the Wanderers were not able to bring on a replacement and saw the rest of the match with nine players.
Five minutes of additional time did nothing to change the result and ultimately fans went home proud of a performance in tough conditions but disappointed with the result.
First half signs were extremely positive for the Red & Black and with a number of key players still to return, victory in the home leg of the AFC Champions League Final on Saturday is still very much attainable.
Sydney FC 3 (Gameiro 45’+1,Ognenovski 49’ Brosque 79’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Bridge 19’ Own Goal 24’)
Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic, Mullen (Haliti 87’), Hamill (Appiah 75’), Topor-Stanley, Golec, Poljak, La Rocca, Castelen (Cole 72’), Saba, Bridge, Santalab
Red cards: Saba 69’