It was a disheartening return to Wanderland as defensive errors and missed opportunities resigned the Wanderers to a 3-1 defeat against the Roar.Here’s what we can takeaway.
Curse of the curtain raiser continues
In seasons past, the Wanderers have never picked up the three points in their opening game of the season.
That hoodoo has now extended to four consecutive seasons as the Roar handed Tony Popovic another season opening flat line.
A wise man would know better than to jump to hasty conclusions – the Wanderers are notorious slow-burners when it comes to getting off the Hyundai A-League tarmac.
And a quick glance at the fixture list tells us that the runway is rather crowded for the Wanderers: away games against Adelaide and Sydney FC are next, before welcoming Westfield FFA Cup semi-finalists Perth Glory to Wanderland.
The manner in which the Wanderers navigate this next month will be a telling indicator of whether or not we’ll be positioning ourselves as genuine contenders this season.
Gift-giving and chance-missing
From a Wanderers perspective, the narrative of last night told a tale of defensive lapses and opportunities gone begging.
The Wanderers fired at goal 21 times for Mitch Nichols’ sole return while Brisbane’s four shots on goal found the back of the net three times.
What’s most shattering is the way in which those three goals came about: a mistimed back-pass from Brendan Hamill gifted Roar the opener while two very preventable set pieces provided the other nails in the coffin.
It’s something that Tony Popovic was quick to lament.
“We’re disappointed we lost, of course we are.”
“Two set plays and an error from us, and we got punished.”
“We created so many opportunities – we got into their box on numerous occasions but we just couldn’t finish it off.”
Mitchy’s all heart
If there’s one Wanderers player who can hold is head up high after last night it’s Mitch Nichols and Wanderers fans agreed by voting him Man of the Match.
The Gold Coast native has showed glimpses of what he’ll bring to the team this season and against the Roar he showed a fantastic mix of graft and guile.
Graft in the way he hounded the Roar back-third for the ball, pressing with vigour and chasing down lost causes.
Guile in finding a goal from a rather improbable situation, catching Michael Theo off guard by curling an intelligent strike into the far post.
After the game, Roar boss John Aloisi spoke of the dangers Nichols was posing.
“We struggled a little in the first half. Mitch Nichols was causing us issues – he was getting into good areas in between the lines.”
Keep it up Mitchy.
‘Cause I gotta have faith
Wanderers fans above all else will know that patience is a virtue.
Let us remember that this is an entirely new-look Wanderers: only three players from last year’s squad actually took the field last night.
You need more than a pre-season for a new team to gel, so it will admittedly take time.
In Mark Bridge, Brendon Santalab and Golgol Mebrahtu, we have three players who, once they return from injury, we know can cause problems.
The recovering duo of Alberto and Shannon Cole will give us more options in defence, while the quality of Andreu and Dario Vidosic will shine through once the pair reaches full match fitness.
Wanderers 2.0 is a work in progress and won’t happen overnight but as Popovic said in the press conference, we’ll also need to get some results along the way.
So be patient Wanderers faithful – Rome wasn’t built in a day and it certainly takes a little longer than that to renovate.