Wanderers Rule This Town with Late Winner

A Brendon Santalab goal in the dying moments has given the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers a dramatic 1-0 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night at Pirtek Stadium.

A Brendon Santalab goal in the dying moments has given the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers a dramatic 1-0 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night at Pirtek Stadium.

The win means the Wanderers Rule This Town once again, becoming the first team to win a home Derby in the process

An enthralling first half produced no goals but plenty of excitement with the Wanderers hitting the woodwork no less than four times in a display reminiscent of their Round Three domination over the Sky Blues.

After just eight minutes Tomi Juric began the assault when he turned his defender and unleashed a long-range bullet only to have it saved onto the post by Vedran Janjetovic in the Sydney FC goal.

Juric had another chance after when a defensive breakdown from the visitors allowed him to shoot from a tight angle despite seemingly having his back to goal. Janjetovic however was once again on hand, getting just enough on the shot for it to dribble along the goal line until cleared.

With ten minutes to go in the half Mark Bridge went close as he cut inside, beat his defender to find his way into the box only to see his shot hit the outside of the post.

Then, with just three minutes remaining in the half the Wanderers went closer than ever to breaking the deadlock with an impressive piece of Youssouf Hersi magic.

An audacious Hersi chip from the edge of the centre circle hit beat Janjetovic only to hit the cross bar. Juric was on hand for the follow up with his strike also cannoning off the woodwork leaving the scores tied at half time.

Coming out for the second half, the Red and Black absorbed some pressure early in the second half with Ante Covic having to make several key saves to keep the scores level but the tied quickly turned back the Wanderers way.

Despite that, chances were few and far between and with the minutes ticking away it appeared the points were destined to be shared.

But in an instant the Wanderers grabbed the winner and it came via Brendon Santalab in the 87th minute.

A clever ball from Shinji Ono put Youssouf Hersi into space in the corner of the penalty area. Hersi-s shot deflected across the area to Santalab who had worked his way off his defender and was all alone against his former team.

Santalab then calmly brought the ball down off his chest and tucked it under the advancing Janjetovic to snatch a dramatic win for the home side.

After the match Wanderers head coach Tony Popovic praised his side-s performance especially after a disrupted build up.

“We won today. Derby-s are difficult,” Popovic said.

“At times we played some very good football. We finished very strong and it was a deserved victory.

“In particular when you lose a player in the warm up (Mateo Poljak), you lose a player yesterday (Jerome Polenz) and you lose a player in the first half having to come off (Iacopo La Rocca).

“So the players were very strong today physically and mentally to get through that.”

The game saw the debut of 16 year old Young Socceroo Daniel Alessi at left back for the Wanderers with Polenz experiencing hamstring tightness at the side-s final training session.

Popovic said he had no hesitation in bringing the youngster in on such a big occasion.

“We didn-t want to risk Jerome and the young boy has been doing well,” Popovic said.

“He-s been training with us for a little while now with the first team, or at least since he-s been on school holidays he has, and he did great.

“We believe in the kid and he-s a 16 year old boy. I still remember my debut at 16 and I-m sure he-ll never forget this one.”

Image Credit: George Suresh