The AFC Champions League hangover has continued for Western Sydney Wanderers FC, held to a frustrating 1-1 draw with struggling Newcastle Jets at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Things started well enough for Tony Popovic’s side, with Tomi Juric hitting a crunching volley to give them an early lead in front of more than 14,000 fans.
But the dogged visitors, with a point to prove after an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Brisbane last week, showed tremendous fight and character to get a point thanks to Marcos Flores’ classy first-half equaliser.
In an entertaining clash, the woodwork was hit on three occasions while Jets ‘keeper Ben Kennedy – in for the demoted Mark Birighitti – pulled off a couple of important saves to justify his selection.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Another game with a lot of opportunities but its a pity that we didn't come off with the three points again. The most important thing is to create opportunities but we couldn't score." - Vitor Saba
"It was a tough week for all the Newcastle Jets members and every single person who works with the club. We give all our heart in the first half. We know how difficult it is to come here and play against the Champions of Asia. We're going to keep working hard and build from there." - Marcos Flores
1-0 Juric (12’) – Vitor Saba sent in a corner to the back post, picking out an unmarked Juric just eight yards from goal. The Socceroo striker hit his first-time volley sweet, flying between ‘keeper Ben Kennedy and Sam Gallaway and into the back of the net.
1-1 Flores (27’) – A swift Jets’ counter-attack released David Carney down the right win. Carney cut back inside onto his left-foot, picking out the run of Flores through the heart of the Wanderers defence with a deft chip. Flores did the rest, controlling instantly with one touch then slotting a classy finish past Covic.
Midway through the first half, Wanderers winger Romeo Castelen demonstrated his pace and power on a scintillating 45 metre run through the heart of the Jets defence starting just inside his own half. Just outside the box the Dutchman teed up Nikita Rukavytsya with a well-weighted pass, his shot saved by Ben Kennedy and cleared off the line by Sam Galloway. A few minutes later the Jets equalised through Flores to get back into the contest.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The result means the Jets have now equaled their worst ever start to an Hyundai A-League season, seven games without a victory the same start they endured in 2006/07. The Wanderers unbeaten run at home has now extended to 12 games in all competitions.
Shannon Cole looked to clear the danger with his header from Edson Montano’s cross. But the clearance went straight to Flores on the edge of the box, the Argentine playmaker instinctively smacking a first-time volley with great technique and power which rattled Ante Covic’s crossbar and flew away to safety.
A terrible first touch from Cole, allowed Montano to pick up possession and have a clear run through on goal. But the Ecuadorian somehow spooned the ball over the bar even with Covic sprawled on the ground after slipping over and the entire goal at his mercy.
THE FINAL WORD
The Wanderers should have no trouble getting over their disappointment of another draw when fierce rivals Sydney FC head to Pirtek Stadium for the derby next Saturday night. Newcastle also have local bragging rights on the line, with Central Coast Mariners visiting Hunter Stadium for the F3 derby.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic, Alessi (Hamill 46’), Spiranovic, Topor-Stanley, Cole, Poljak, La Rocca, Castelen (Bridge 57’), Saba, Rukavytsya (Haliti 76’), Juric
Newcastle Jets: Kennedy, Cowburn, Jaliens, Madaschi, Gallaway, Welsh, Flores (Griffiths 68’), Celeski (Pepper 74’), Jeronimo (Hoole 64’), Montano, Carney
Scorers: Juric 12’, Flores 27’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Madaschi 79’
Conditions: 27C, Dry
Attendance: 14,136 @Pirtek Stadium