A late winner from Shane Smeltz has consigned the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers to a richly undeserved derby defeat, going down 2-1 in front of a record breaking crowd at Pirtek Stadium.It was the archetypal smash and grab performance from the visitors who were on the back foot for almost the entire match but somehow emerged victorious thanks to Smeltz’ strike.
With both teams adopting a mindful approach in the opening stages, the match made for a cagey beginning but after a lengthy softening up period it was the home side that well and truly slotted into their passing groove and established their dominance.
The visiting Sky Blues were mere passengers as the Wanderers knocked the ball around confidently and Popovic’s men almost made an early breakthrough when Dario Vidosic skewed a volley narrowly wide after a slick turn in the box.
The Wanderers attacked with purpose and vigour and should have made their dominance count when Romeo Castlen broke free down the right channel but the Dutchman could only find the side netting with the goal at his mercy.
It was a miss that proved costly for the Red a& Black because it allowed Sydney to open the scoring completely against the run of play with Jacques Faty nodding home from point blank range after Seb Ryall kept the ball alive in the box.
The move was one of Sydney’s first fleeting ventures forward into the Wanderers half who had held just 26 percent of the ball before Faty’s opener.
The strike allowed the visitors to take a deep breath and reorganise, settling into a solid defensive shape that offered little room for penetration.
Although the Wanderers struggled to invent a way through they should have gone ahead late in the half when Mitch Nichols inadvertently found himself bearing down on goal after the Sydney defence was caught napping. The club’s leading goal scorer had Dario Vidosic keeping pace alongside but Janjetovic stood tall to ensure the Sky Blues would head to the sheds unscathed.
There was no drop off to the Wanderers pressure as the second stanza began.
Romeo Castelen proved a constant headache for the Sydney fullbacks, popping up on both flanks and dovetailing well with the energetic overlapping runs of Scott Jamieson and Scott Neville.
The visitor’s stubborn resistance began to show signs of fragility before it eventually crumbled: unsurprisingly at the hands of the Dutchman who provided the piece of composure the Wanderers needed to dispel Sydney’s sheen of invulnerability.
A swift transition saw Castelen attract the heart of the Sydney defence before slipping a perfectly weighted pass to Vidosic who dispatched clinically and stylishly into the bottom corner.
The visitors were rattled after Vidosic’s second goal of the season and the Wanderers continued to push forward at will. Substitute and Kings Langley boy Kearyn Baccus was denied what would have been a goal dripping with narrative at the RBB end as Sydney continued to repel wave after wave of pressure.
Hanging on by a thread for virtually the entirety of the half, it seemed inconceivable that the Sky Blues would fashion another opportunity, let alone be the team to score next. But they would snatch a barely believable winner in what was the only memorable chance of the half for the visitors when Shane Smeltz rifled a loose ball home from a free-kick.