The Western Sydney Wanderers played out a 1-1 draw with Spirit FC in a catch-up game at Christie Park on Tuesday night.On a pitch that made playing football almost impossible, Kyle Cimenti looked to have grabbed the win for the Red & Black only for the home team to equalise almost immediately.
With both teams having played matches only a few days prior, there were some heavy legs and new faces as 17-year-old Lachlan Campbell made his NPL debut, starting at centre back for the Wanderers.
The condition of the pitch meant both teams played a more direct style of football with bobbles making it difficult when the ball was passed through midfield.
It was a ferocious match throughout with tough tackles and high tensions which saw the Wanderers finish the match with ten men after Campbell received two yellow cards late in the game.
It was an unfortunate end that had seen an assured display from the youngster for the first 80 minutes, making a series of impressive tackles and winning headers against fully grown men.
The result could have been a lot different if it wasn’t for the Spirit FC keeper, Murray Nelson, making four of the best saves that have been seen all season.
Two in the first half saw Nelson deny Ramy Najjarine’s deflected shot with a diving fingertip save before a strong reaction save from Jordan Morfitis’ first-time strike.
Spirit FC were also creating chances throughout the match but were lacking a killer instinct up front, struggling to get shots on targets with Campbell and Keanu Baccus both making important interventions to deny the home team.
Nelson made his third save of the game – and his third type of save – just after half time as he rushed out to smother a Kyle Cimenti shot as the striker got played in behind the line.
As the match went on, Wanderers became dominant and chances fell to Lawrence Hanna and Cameron Devlin before Tariq Maia was mowed down in the box for Cimenti to convert the penalty.
It was the striker’s fourth goal in two games.
Unfortunately for the Wanderers, almost immediately after taking the lead the Red & Black gave away a foul only to see Spirit FC head home the equaliser from the ensuing free kick.
From there the match was hard fought with Campbell’s red card the only talking point until Tate Russell forced Nelson into his fourth world class save of the match in the third minute of additional time.
Russell won the ball in his own half and, gliding past would be defenders, almost went the entire length of the pitch before attempting to chip the keeper.
Nelson, slightly out of position, somehow managed to backtrack, recovering enough to make a backwards diving save that saw the ball tipped just over the crossbar.
The draw leaves Wanderers sharing first place on the PS4 NPL2 ladder though Sydney FC have a game in hand. The Red & Black play their third match in a week on Saturday as they take on Northern Tigers at Valentine Sports Park (7pm).
Spirit FC 1
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Kyle Cimenti 76’)
Western Sydney Wanderers: Matthew Symes (GK), Lachlan Roberts, Lachlan Campbell, Keanu Baccus, Tate Russell, Tacettin Kumsuz, Cameron Devlin, Ramy Najjarine, Lawrence Hanna (Moudi Najjar), Jordan Morfitis (Tariq Maia), Kyle Cimenti
Unused subs: Nick Suman (GK), Charles Abou, Michael Trajkovski