Second half goals to substitute Brendon Santalab and Mitch Nichols has handed Western Sydney Wanderers a well-deserved 2-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Sunday.
Santalab struck midway through the second half – just eight minutes after entering the fray – before Nichols sealed the result in stoppage time.
It’s now five straight wins for Tony Popovic’s side and just what they deserved for another excellent showing.
The Wanderers have now moved equal with Melbourne Victory at the top of the Hyundai A-League, while the Mariners are eighth after seven game without a win.
0-1 Santalab (66’) – Mitch Nichols split open the Mariners defence with an exquisite through-ball to Santalab, with the substitute producing a composed finish to slam it past Paul Izzo.
0-2 Nichols (90+3’) – A late counter-attack saw Sotirio slide a pass into Nichols about six yards from goal, his scuffed effort wrong-footing Izzo and rolling into an open goal.
Just before the hour mark, Dario Vidosic seemed to tweak his hamstring, forcing the Wanderers to make a change with Brendon Santalab brought on. It proved a masterstroke by coach Tony Popovic with the striker taking just eight minutes to make his impact, coolly slotting home a one-on-one chance to give the visitors a deserved lead and one they wouldn’t relinquish.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
*The win means the Wanderers are now one their best winning streak since they won 10 matches in a row back in Season One.
*It’s the first time this season the Mariners have been held scoreless in a Hyundai A-League fixture, while they have yet to keep a clean sheet of their own..
*The Wanderers dominated for long periods, having 19 shots at goal compared to the home side’s six.
There was a lot to like about the performance of Wanderers winger Romeo Castelen. He troubled the Mariners all afternoon with his trickery, pace and power. The only thing missing was a goal his performance duly deserved. When he finds his finishing boots, the Wanderers will have one heck of a player on their hands.
The Wanderers were dealt a blow even before kick-off with the in-form Mark Bridge injuring himself in the warm-up, unable to take his spot in the starting XI, replaced by Dario Vidosic.
Vidosic then limped off himself in the second half with what appeared to be a hamstring strain.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
The Mariners defence kept a high line most of the 90 minutes and the Wanderers exploited the space in behind regularly.
The pace of Romeo Castelen and Jaushua Sotirio caused the home side all sorts of problems with the extra room to move and if not for some wayward finishing and some excellent sweeper-keeping from Paul Izzo, the Mariners would have been punished more often.
It was that avenue that saw the Wanderers take the lead midway through the second half. Unfortunately for the home side they didn’t heed the warnings.
THE FINAL WORD
If not for an incredible late save by Andrew Redmayne, the Mariners could have snatched a point at the death. But it would have been more than their performance deserved, second-best for much of the contest. There were some bright moments but not enough consistency, the story of their season so far. It doesn’t get any easier with Melbourne Victory next up in Gosford on Thursday night.
For the Wanderers, they are the hottest team in the competition right now and are playing some exceptional football. Joint top and five wins on the spin means confidence is flying high. Redemption will be on their minds as they take on Brisbane Roar on Saturday night, a side they lost to on the opening night.