A last minute rocket by substitute Shane Smeltz has seen Sydney FC continue their derby dominance, beating Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night.
A drama-charged Harbour City derby looked destined to finish all square after Dario Vidosic’s sublime strike just before the hour mark cancelled out Jacques Faty’s first-half header.
But Smeltz had the final say, lashing home an unstoppable volley in the final minute to stretch the Sky Blues unbeaten streak in the derby to six matches.
The win also draws the Sky Blues level on 27 points with the Wanderers, who have now lost two in a row for the first time this season.
0-1 Faty (22’) – Chris Naumoff’s corner looked to be over-hit but Sebastian Ryall did brilliantly to head it back across the face of goal, with Faty leaping above Nikolai Topor-Stanley to head home from close range.
1-1 Vidosic (58’) – Sydney FC’s defence got caught too narrow, with Romeo Castelen finding Vidosic in acres of space on the left of the box. Vidosic took one touch before curling a sublime effort into the far, top corner. A peach of a finish!
1-2 Smeltz (90’) – A hopeful free-kick into the box was headed down by Matt Jurman into the path of Smeltz, with the Kiwi international thumping it into the top corner form 12 yards out. A superb strike!
Wanderers midfielder Kearyn Baccus came off the bench early in the second half and should have made himself a derby hero with 12 minutes left.
Baccus played a sweet one-two with Mitch Nichols and found himself with only Vedran Janjetovic to beat about eight yards from goal.
But the youngster, yet to score in the A-League, shot straight at the Sydney FC gloveman.
Just over 10 minutes later the Sky Blues made the most of their chance and claimed Derby bragging rights again.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
*The defeat was the Wanderers’ first loss at home in their last seven Hyundai A-League games.
*It was also the first goals they have conceded in front of their home fans in their last four matches.
*While they lost, the Wanderers enjoyed 64.9 percent of possession and dominated the shot count 9-6.
Another example why the Sydney Derby has become a must-see event on the Australian sporting calendar.
What an incredible atmosphere inside Wanderland as just under 20,000 fans were on hand to see another Harbour City clash full of colour, noise and finger-biting drama.
Only six weeks to wait until they meet again. Bring it on!
A bizarre incident 10 minutes before the break proved pivotal for the home side. A Wanderers attack looked like it would be pulled up when Mark Bridge was flagged for offside as he chased Dario Vidosic’s through ball.
But with Bridge halting his run – and despite Sydney FC’s defenders all assuming the whistle would be blown - referee Strebre Delovski allowed play to continue as Mitch Nichols raced forward to claim possession.
Nichols was clean through on goal but instead of passing to an unmarked Vidosic for a simple tap-in, he went himself with Janjetovic pulling off a vital save with his legs.
While it was contentious, it was a clear goal wasted by Nichols’ selfishness, which wouldn’t have made coach Tony Popovic happy.
THE FINAL WORD
The Wanderers wait for another Derby success goes on but they only have themselves to blame for not winning this one. The home side carved out enough opportunities to win a few matches but in the end get absolutely nothing. They are still looking good to have a big say in the finals, but there’s things to improve as well. They make the trip up the F3 next Saturday night to face Luis Garcia and the Mariners.
Graham Arnold’s game-plan worked to a tee in this one. While they conceded a lot of possession and territory, they soaked up the pressure then made the most of the opportunities that fell to them. A huge win for the club! The Sky Blues have a full 10 days to prepare for a huge Big Blue against Melbourne Victory on Australia Day.
Western Sydney Wanderers: Redmayne (gk), Neville, Alberto, Topor-Stanley (c), Jamieson, Dimas (Baccus 52’), Andreu, Castelen, Nichols (Piovaccari 79’), Vidosic (Mebrahtu 69’), Bridge
Sydney FC: Janjetovic (gk), Ryall (c), Faty, Jurman, Grant, Dimitrijevic, Tavares, Holosko Blackwood 84’), Ninkovic, Naumoff (Abbas 69’), Simon (Smeltz 63’)
Scorers: Faty 22’, Vidosic 58’, Smeltz 90’
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Simon 19’, Grant 43’, Topor-Stanley 89’
Conditions: 20C, Partly Cloudy
Attendance: 19,627 @ Pirtek Stadium