A thrilling late comeback with goals to Andreu and Mitch Nichols has given the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers a vital 2-1 victory over Newcastle Jets.It was a gutsy win which showed character after going behind in controversial circumstances and topped-off a great Saturday for the Red & Black whose women also beat the Jets 2-1 earlier in the day.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Knowing that a win would lift them to the top of the Hyundai A-League table, the Jets started with gusto and almost opened the scoring inside four minutes when Enver Alidovic swept David Carney’s cross back across goal for Nigel Boogard to poke wide.
It was an early nervous moment at the back for the Wanderers but Tony Popovic’s side quickly steadied themselves and settled into comfortable periods of possession.
Chances were to follow, with Mark Birighitti in the thick of the action, denying Neville’s header and Nichols’ effort from range.
The Jets responded with Milos Trifunovic glancing a header wide after dazzling footwork from Alidovic, before Alidovic himself curled an effort wide of Redmayne’s far post.
Scott Miller’s side were often camped around their own penalty area but they looked threatening on the counter attack with the returning Leonardo adding a real fluidity to the Jets’ sporadic forays into the Wanderers half.
Despite forging the greater number of chances, the Wanderers were unable to apply a finishing touch to their well-worked build up play, thwarted by a collection of fine saves by Birighitti in the Newcastle goal.
The Newcastle number one was at his best to stop Vidosic’s volley on the turn moments before half-time, keeping the match scoreless at the break.
The Wanderers might have dominated the opening stanza but Newcastle started the second with all guns blazing.
A delightful reverse pass from Carney put Boogard through on goal but the Newcastle skipper produced a centre-halves finish to blaze the chance high over the bar. Minutes later, the dangerous Alidovic volleyed a loose clearance straight at Redmayne.
The Wanderers were struggling to deal with the poise and intelligence of Carney and they should have gone behind when Ben Kantarovski spurned the chance of the game into the side netting.
Kantarovski’s error seemed to have halted the home side’s momentum with the Wanderers regaining dominance of the ball, exemplified by a stunning move in the 65th minute which started with the team trapped near their own corner flag, and ended with Nichols sliding a shot into the arms of Birighitti.
But the Novocastrians had a huge stroke of luck to make the breakthrough fifteen minutes before half-time in controversial fashion.
After Leonardo was hauled down outside the box by Andreu, Lee Ki-Jee’s free-kick clanged against the crossbar, with Enver Alidovic on hand to knock in the rebound from an offside position.
The linesman’s flag was correctly raised to have denied the Serbian, but when questioned by referee Stephen Lucas, the linesman over-ruled himself to leave most non-Jets fans shaking their head in disbelief.
Fortunately, the celebrations were short lived.
With the Red & Black searching for an instant reply, Santalab was clumsily felled by Trifunovic in the box. Andreu took the ball to the spot and cooly slotted home to deservedly restore parity.
A draw would have arguably been the least the side deserved on the balance of play but things were to get even better for Tony Popovic’s men.
A Jets mistake coming out of their own box was pounced upon by Romeo Castelen, and the Dutchman found Mark Bridge on the edge of the box.
The birthday boy shifted the ball across to Nichols who took a touch and sent a thunderbolt into the back of the net seal a thrilling 2-1 victory.