The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers have made a statement and extended their lead at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over reigning champions Melbourne Victory.While chances fell to both teams in the first half, the Red & Black dominated the second period in a match where the Victory never really looked like winning.
In what was the match of the season so far, Mark Bridge’s fourth goal in as many games got the ball rolling before Romeo Castelen’s first of the season sealed the deal.
The heralded return of the RBB and the 17,073 delirious fans created an atmosphere worthy of such an occasion as the top of the table clash lived up to all of its pre-match billing.
After weathering an initial Victory storm, the home side rode an early wave of momentum themselves in a blistering ten minute stanza that should have seen the Wanderers clinch an early lead.
Mark Bridge hadn’t registered a shot off target all campaign prior to kick-off but was uncharacteristically guilty of missing two golden opportunities, first scuffing a shot wide after some Romeo Castelen brilliance and secondly fluffing his line with only his best mate Danny Vukovic to beat.
The Wanderers were almost made to pay minutes later when Redmayne spilled a Victory corner but the custodian made amends with a huge save to deny Kosta Barbarouses after Besart Berisha’s clever lay-off.
Victory fullback Daniel Georgevski endured a torrid time contending with the trickery of Castelen who almost made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time but Vukovic was equal to the Dutchman’s rasping effort.
The second half resumed with a strong penalty shout denied for the home side when Castelen was seemingly felled in the box but it wasn’t long after that controversial moment that Popovic’s side opened the scoring.
Mark Bridge was the hero once again as he bundled home at the back post following an excellent exchange between Scott Neville and Castelen.
Victory rallied following Bridge’s fourth goal of the season with Fahid Ben-Khalfallah failing to convert Berisha’s neat cutback but the Wanderers defended stoutly and limited the reigning champions to very little joy in the final third.
It was another composed and controlled showing from the home team who sealed the match with ten minutes remaining courtesy of Romeo Castelen’s strike, which slipped through the grasp of Vukovic.
The winger’s first goal of the campaign capped an exceptional display from the evening’s standout player who was given a thunderous ovation when replaced by Golgol Mebrahtu with only minutes remaining.
Next up for the Wanderers is a trip to Perth Glory before returning home on Christmas Eve to take on Newcastle Jets. Tickets are available here.