The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers have bounced back in more ways than one as they came-from-behind to defeat reigning Champions Adelaide Untied 2-1.It was the first time in history that the Red & Black have won a match in the opening two rounds of the Hyundai A-League and it came on the back of a sensational second-half cameo from Brendon Santalab.
The super-sub came off the bench midway through the second stanza to cancel out Henrique’s first-half opener and netted the winner in injury time to hand Tony Popovic’s side their first win of the season and a sweet side of revenge for their 3-1 defeat at the hand of Guillermo Amor’s men in last season’s Grand Final.
A tremendous strength of character was evident to bounce back from last week’s heavy loss in this manner, and while the Wanderers were impressive in the opening stages of the match they were unable to capitalise on their chances before Henrique’s opener on the cusp of half-time.
A perennial threat again to follow up an exquisite Sydney Derby showing, Jumpei was the source of everything good about the Wanderers. The Japanese livewire set up a chance for Kerem Bulut after chesting down Clisby’s cross inside the area with the forward unable to bundle the ball home before flashing a long range effort of his own over the crossbar minutes later.
But after a shaky opening twenty minutes for the home team, the momentum fell the way of Adelaide. With Reds’ winger Cirio withdrawn through injury early on, substitute Ryan Kitto enjoyed a fine first half down the right wing and created a golden chance for Henrique following a superb cutback from the by-line but the forward spooned his first-time effort over the bar.
Yet the former Roar talisman redeemed himself on the cusp of half-time when he swept home an almost identical opportunity with Kitto delivering another lovely cutback from the right and Henrique turning home his first goal in Adelaide colours from close range.
With the second half underway and his charges on the back foot, Tony Popovic needed no further delay in introducing both Nicolás Martínez and Brendon Santalab from the bench and the changes breathed new life into the Wanderers attack immediately.
Robbie Cornthwaite was denied a goal on his return to Coopers Stadium when his downward header was blocked on the line by Mitch Nichols, while Andrew Redmayne’s smothering save denied Kitto at the other end.
Unsurprisingly, the Wanderers’ substitutes played crucial roles in the equaliser midway through the second half: Martínez digging his side out of what appeared a dead end deep inside their own half and Santalab applying the finishing touch to Mitch Nichols’ cross 60 meters downfield.
It was a sensational counter attacking goal from the Wanderers and the momentum was now firmly with Popovic’s side who spurned another chance when Jonathan Aspropotamitis hooked Cornthwaite’s knock down over the bar.
Santalab flirted with danger when a challenge on James Holland was awarded a yellow card but there would be one final twist in favour of the Red & Black in stoppage time.
With the Wanderers building pressure outside the Reds’ penalty area Jumpei unlocked the Adelaide defence with a piercing through ball to Nichols who saw his cutback slammed home by Santalab for a famous win.
It was the striker’s seventh goal in just his last six matches.
The Wanderers return home next week when they take on Newcastle Jets at Spotless Stadium. Tickets are available on Ticketek for the clash on Sunday 23 October. Kick-off at 7pm.
Adelaide United 1 (Henrique 42’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Brendon Santalab 67’ 91’)
Western Sydney Wanderers: Andrew Redmayne (GK), Jack Clisby, Robbie Cornthwaite (Brendan Hamill), Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Scott Neville, Dimas (C), Kearyn Baccus, Mitch Nichols, Steve Lustica (Nicolás Martínez), Jumpei, Kerem Bulut (Brendon Santalab)
Unused subs: Jerrad Tyson (GK), Bruno Piñatares