SHOCKED AND SURPRISED, ARE YOU!?
So am I, pleasantly bloody surprised.
With the way the Red and Black have been playing over the last couple unlucky seasons, we all expected the squad to either fall apart completely from the moment the whistle blew or fall short with bad luck in the dying minutes. NOT TONIGHT!
Up against former FFA Cup winners, Melbourne City, most of the Western Sydney Wanderers fan base has been quiet since the selection of our next opponents, in fear that we will have another repeat of past matches. Not sure what I’m on about? Let me recap for you:
“We play a good 45 minutes, fall apart in the second 45 and get out asses royally handed to us”
Sound familiar? Well it would be if you’re a loyal fan of the Red and Black.
Reviewing the match against City, the first 20 minutes looked to be in Melbourne’s favour, with fouls that were golden moments of opportunity and a hand ball that did not go unnoticed by the referee that gave away a penalty. Now THERE’S A FAMILIAR FEELING WE ALL KNOW AND LOVE (hate), a familiar feeling of ‘yup, here we go again’ as a confident Bruno Fornaroli steps up to the ball… BUT IT GOES WIDE!
A disappointing shot that rolls just wide of the bar, still sending a young Daniel Nizic the wrong way but definitely calming nerves and giving the Wanderers another shot to turn this around and take the win home.
That’s exactly what they did.
With the statistics of last season, Oriol Riera has once again put himself on the scoresheet! A beautiful corner from Alexander Baumjohann, Oriol rocketing past with a header that sends it straight in! When Popovic signed him, this is exactly what he signed him for. Even though Riera signed the dotted line to play under Popa but having it all fall apart a week before the season kicked off, it made no difference as he racked up 15 goals last season, and not looking to stop any time soon this season either.
Possession seemed to tell a completely different story to what was actually happening on the pitch, with a pretty average and matched percentage between the two in the first half, but things did change drastically in the second as it bumped up to Melbourne City taking 70% of ball possession and Western Sydney dropped to 30%. This didn’t mean a thing, Wanderers are still fired up, and still taking things to the point of scoring another goal and this time it’s Roly Bonevacia.
A clean, crisp kick into the bottom left hand of the net. So far, Roly has scored more in this short preseason than he did all of last season, this can only mean on thing. IT’S HIS TIME TO SHINE!
Another promising and positive difference which has defiantly changed my tune, is young keeper, Daniel Nizic. A very unlucky start a few weeks ago as he made his first appearance against Hellenic Athletic, letting past easy shots, fumbles and costly mistakes that almost sent the red and black back to West Sydney and out of the competition very early. He impressed me and the rest of his audience, against Bonnyrigg White Eagles a few weeks prior and defiantly tonight as he stood firmer than ever between the sticks, replacing our usual guardian of the goals, Vedran Janjetovic, again tonight! He is becoming a valuable second keeper, soon to be ‘First’ one day, with countless hours of practice and experience to come. He is going far.
Melbourne did attempt to turn it around with a goal from Riley McGree and to be more than fair, it was a beauty! A rocket! UNSTOPPABLE! Gonna quote The Ladies League group chat we had going during the game and say, ‘Riley McGree is the future’ [of Australian Football]. And in my eyes, the damn Puskas award belongs to him!
That one goal, McGree can add to his resume but it wont be enough for City to make it in front. There were too many missed opportunities, wasted chances, shots over the bar. Just not enough. A very different looking Melbourne City side than we have seen I past seasons.
At the end of the night, it was the Western Sydney Wanderers who pulls off a much needed win, a heap of confidence for this squad as they go into a potential Sydney Derby Semi Final. There are still little tweaks that need to be fixed, just like any team and there is a lot to learn from tonight, but if anyone is to take anything away from this match, it is that the Western Sydney Wanderers mean business and are going to be a force to reckon with this season. German manager, Markus Babbel has that ‘IT’ thing the club has been waiting for since the loss of Foundation Manager, Tony Popovic and the horror couple seasons they have experienced.
There is so much more to come and it can only get better from here.
Featured Image from Western Sydney Wanderers Twitter page.