Images from the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers opening game of the IPIC Championship in Abu Dhabi.In testing 40 degree conditions the Red & Black were up for the challenge however an opportunistic long-range strike and a powerful back post header saw the Bahrain champions win the match.
While Alusine Fofanah’s well taken finish kept the scoreline tight for the majority of the match, the Wanderers couldn’t find the net following a host of chances in the second half.
The Wanderers started brightly following three days of energy sapping training at the NAD Al Sheba sports complex in Dubai.
Several attacking raids from the front four of Vitor Saba, Steve Kuzmanovski, Brendon Santalab and Romeo Castelen, getting his first competitive football in the Red & Black, resulted in a string of early corners.
However it was East Riffa who managed to make the early break with a long range strike from Mohamad Jafer flying into the roof of the net following some powerful lead up play from Miladine.
Some fast feet from Kuzmanoski sent Santalab through on goal late in the first half but while his lofted attempt evaded the onrushing East Riffa keeper the ball was kept from being the equaliser by the left upright.
The Wanderers came out stronger in the second half and got their goal after Nikolai Topor-Stanley drove the ball forward before moving it to Santalab to cutback to Fofanah who deftly lifted the ball into the back of the net.
The second half opened up with the intense heat allowing more space for both teams to find gaps.
Romeo Castelen unleashed a powerful drive only to see it hit the side netting following some good movement from Saba.
However it was East Riffa who would again take the lead when Mamado scored off a deep free-kick at the back post powerfully heading past Bouzanis.
Fofanah almost had a double when Perkatis lobbed the ball into his path but with the young midfield man through on goal he could not guide his finish on target.
With minutes left in the game Perkatis was again on the ball and his deep cross found Hamill unmarked but he drew his shot inches wide of the goal and the equaliser.
East Riffa Club 2 (Mohamad JAFER 12’, MAMADO 61’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (FOFANAH 50’)
NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers starting line-up: 20. Dean Bouzanis (30. Thomas Manos 70’), 2. Shannon Cole, 4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (c) (6 Antony Golec 62’), 18. Iacopo La Rocca (5. Brendan Hamill 55’), 15. Yianni Perkatis, 23. Jason Trifiro (8. Mateo Poljak 75’), 31. Alusine Fofanah, 17. Romeo Castelen (14. Kwabena Appiah 60’), 10. Vitor Saba (19. Mark Bridge 70’), 34. Steve Kuzmanovski, 11. Brendon Santalab (7. Labinot Haliti 60’)
Players not used: 1. Ante Covic, 4. Daniel Mullen, 13. Matthew Spiranovic