A goal imagined by Western Sydney: Baccus strike repays years of faith

It was a goal scored by Keanu Baccus, assisted by Mohamed Adam and imagined by the Western Sydney Wanderers academy.

The Wanderers kids are indeed alright, as last Friday's 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory showed.

Western Sydney have invested heavily in their youth production over the years, but the spotlight has never shone so brightly on the club's commitment to nurturing talent from one of Australia's famous footballing breeding grounds.

In Baccus, Adam, Nick Sullivan and Daniel Wilmering, Markus Babbel fielded four Wanderers academy graduates in his starting eleven at Marvel Stadium. Sullivan, Adam and Baccus all combined for the young midfielder's superb opener - a strike created by years of dedication and hard work on the training ground.

It was, as 21-year-old Sullivan remarked post-game, like the trio had all done it before together.

“I was in the Wanderers youth team when I was 15, 16, 17 years old and Keanu and I used to play in the midfield together so we’ve got the combinations going and it’s good to see it happening three or four years later,” Sullivan said.

“I’ve done it a few times but that’s no credit to me, I feel like Adam made the run, he saw my eyes maybe going there and it was the hard work off the ball."

TOTW: Three Wanderers in the Round 2 best XI
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HIGHLIGHTS: Wanderers snap Victory hoodoo with thrilling win

Babbel scores a Wanderers goal years in the making
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In addition to the four academy kids who stole the show on the pitch, there were five more academy talents in waiting on the Wanderers substitutes bench - Tass Mourdoukoutas, Mathieu Cordier, Kosta Grozos, Jake Trew and Nicholas Suman - all part of the visibly exciting post-match celebrations as the Red and Black started a Hyundai A-League season with back to back wins for the first time.

It's easy to forget that what might be a historic day for the club began with Noah Pagden being announced as the latest Wanderer to earn promotion to the club's first team.

“He’s shown faith in me and a number of the younger players,” Baccus said after the game.

“There’s a good mix now with leaders and young players.

“We’re all really getting on now and it’s going to be a good year.”

With German striker Alex Meier getting off the mark in Melbourne, compatriot Nicolai Muller soon to bolster the attacking arsenal, and Swiss internationals Pirmin Schwegler and Daniel Lopar controlling the midfield and goal mouth with impressive command, the Wanderers are building nicely.

A win over Sydney FC in the derby at Bankwest Stadium next Saturday would send the feel-good factor sky high.

'It's a different season for us', says Wanderers boss Babbel

Teething problems for Victory

The volume of personnel turnover in Melbourne in the off-season carries with it a level of high-risk, high-reward for Marco Kurz's Victory team.

There might not be any genuine cause for alarm, Friday's loss, following the Round 1 derby stalemate, should send a ripple of concern through the Victory faithful.

Despite obvious class, Jakob Poulsen, Kristijan Dobras and Migjen Basha require time to gel. Meanwhile, Ola Toivonen and Andrew Nabbout have registered just one shot on target each during 180 minutes of football.

Where heroes are made

Duric has Stajcic in disbelief

The way Milan Duric has adjusted to life in the Hyundai A-League defies belief, according to Central Coast Mariners boss Alen Stajcic.

Duric became the second-ever Mariners player to score in his first two games for the club following his remarkably volley in Saturday’s F3 derby stalemate with Newcastle Jets.

Tigerish in midfield and clever in possession, the all-action Serbian has been seriously impressive for Stajcic’s side so far – and he was twice denied a potential derby winner by the frame of the goal.

“I just can't believe how quickly he's improved and adjusted and adapted to our league," Stajcic said.

"I'm really pleased for him. His work rate, his quality, his execution, his shooting - he's got a real weapon there.

"There's not many imports who have come into the A-League and been able to adapt to the speed of our game so quickly, so a lot of credit needs to go to him for that."

REGRET: Stajcic bemoans another missed opportunity for Mariners
REACTION: Birighitti laments penalty call as retake denies Mariners in F3 Derby

Duric scored a sensational volley in the F3 derby but the Mariners could not hold on

Kone 'a hell of a player': Rudan

He was the club’s inaugural signing, so it was largely fitting that Panagiotis Kone scored Western United’s first-ever home goal.

A strike that fans of the Hyundai A-League new boys won’t forget – a lovely curling effort from the edge of the box – marked another strong performance from the 28-times capped Greek international, who has started life in Australia exceptionally despite not kicking a ball competitively in 2019 prior to the season beginning.  

“He has been away from football for a long time and if he can do something like that in round two you can only imagine how much better he is going to get,” hailed United boss Mark Rudan, who also described Kone as 'a hell of a player' after his side’s 1-1 draw with reigning Premiers Perth Glory on Saturday.

ANALYSIS: Rudan insists Western United were in control against Perth Glory

Kone scored Western United's first home goal - a beauty against Perth

Popovic pride

Perth Glory boss Tony Popovic was a proud coach and an even prouder father after 18-year-old Kristian’s ‘special’ equaliser against Western United.

Kristian, 18, was sent on by Tony with Glory chasing a 1-0 deficit following Kone’s opener. Normally a defensive midfielder, it was something of a surprise when the son of the former Caltex Socceroo and Crystal Palace defender met a Neil Kilkenny cross with a sublime jump and header.

“I don’t think you can plan for that because first of all its unique that you’re coaching your son at this level. That’s unique in itself,” Popovic said.

“And then when he comes on, he scores. So that’s also unique.

“So that, I think that moment is a special moment, when you celebrate, that’s a little bit more it’s your son.”

With one each to their credit, Tony and Kristian are now the first father-son duo to score Hyundai A-League goals. 

READ: Young Popovic heeds dad’s advice as Glory spoil Western United’s historic day

Kristian Popovic scores his first Hyundai A-League goal