A huge Sydney Derby triumph for Western Sydney Wanderers against Sydney FC capped off an action-packed day in the A-Leagues, with five games across both competitions on the Saturday agenda.
In the Isuzu UTE A-League, Wellington Phoenix hosted three-time reigning premiers Melbourne City at Go Media Stadium, and a goalkeeping masterclass from Alex Paulsen helped the ‘Nix hold on for a 1-0 win.
Central Coast Mariners welcomed rivals Newcastle Jets to Industree Group Stadium for an F3 Derby, breaking their winless drought with a 3-1 triumph over the Jets, before Sydney FC hosted Western Sydney Wanderers in a mouth-watering Sydney Derby at Allianz Stadium which the visitors edged 1-0 thanks to a late Zac Sapsford strike.
In the Liberty A-League, last season’s Grand Finalists Western United fell to a shock 2-0 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers at City Vista Recreation Reserve before league leaders Perth Glory gave away a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to Wellington Phoenix at Go Media Stadium.
Wellington Phoenix 1-0 Melbourne City – Go Media Stadium (Isuzu UTE A-League)
There is something about Alex Paulsen and penalties after the Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper saved another spot-kick to help his team end their Isuzu UTE A-League drought against Melbourne City with a 1-0 win.
Wellington’s Bozhidar Kraev almost went from hero to villain when he conceded a 72nd-minute penalty – 23 minutes after breaking the deadlock in Auckland on Saturday.
But Paulsen made himself a hero once more. Having kept out a stoppage-time penalty against Perth Glory in Round 2, the 21-year-old sensationally thwarted all-time A-Leagues goalscorer Jamie Maclaren from the spot.
Unbeaten through five rounds and top of the table, the ‘Nix snapped their seven-game winless run against City, who are now winless in their last seven league matches away from AAMI Park.
Wellington entered the match on the back of their best-ever unbeaten start to a season amid a run of two wins and two draws to begin 2023-24.
Western United 0-2 Western Sydney Wanderers – City Vista Recreation Reserve (Liberty A-League)
Western Sydney Wanderers claimed their first win of the Liberty A-League season after upstaging last season’s Grand Finalists Western United 2-0.
Sophie Harding was the hero for the Wanderers, chasing down star Western goalkeeper Hillary Beall to break the deadlock with eight minutes remaining at City Vista Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
Cushla Grace Rue sealed the victory for the Wanderers in the third minute of stoppage time.
The result snapped Western Sydney’s 20-game winless drought away from home in the Liberty A-League, while Western United suffered their third defeat of the season after six rounds.
Wellington Phoenix 2-1 Perth Glory – Go Media Stadium (Liberty A-League)
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MATCH REPORT: Phoenix break the ‘distance hoodoo’ to narrow gap at the top
Wellington Phoenix’s remarkable resurgence under Paul Temple has continued with the Kiwi club’s first ever Liberty A-League victory over table-topping Perth Glory.
A fourth win of the season came despite going a goal behind in the “Distance Derby”, as second-half strikes from Hope Breslin and Chloe Knott proved decisive and allowed Phoenix to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat at the Mariners.
Glory put Phoenix’s goal under intense late pressure but couldn’t build on Millie Farrow’s first goal for the club, allowing Phoenix to come within a point of their visitors on the league table.
Central Coast Mariners 3-1 Newcastle Jets – Industree Group Stadium (Isuzu UTE A-League)
Central Coast Mariners are finally off the mark in 2023-24, overcoming a late push from Newcastle Jets to claim F3 Derby honours in 3-1 win at Industree Group Stadium.
The Mariners led 2-0 after Storm Roux and Will Wilson’s goals on either side of half-time – but while in control of the derby clash, conceded against the run of play to Jets teen Archie Goodwin to invite a barrage of pressure from the visiting side.
But the Mariners had a weapon of their own to bring off the bench in Jing Reec, who struck the sealing goal home with aplomb in second-half stoppage time to confirm the Mariners’ first win – and first points – of the 2023-24 season.
The Mariners were Champions of the Isuzu UTE A-League in 2022-23, but four consecutive losses to start the new season was the joint-longest losing run of any reigning Champion in the competition’s history (Brisbane Roar 2014-15); Mark Jackson’s side ensured they avoided claiming sole ownership of that record with a win over the Jets.
Sydney FC 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers – Allianz Stadium (Isuzu UTE A-League)
Western Sydney are on top of the league and on top of their city after downing Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
On a night that underlined the issues facing new Sky Blues boss Ufuk Talay, a second-half goal for Zac Sapsford proved enough to settle a nervy and stop-start encounter at Allianz Stadium and send his team back to the summit of the Isuzu UTE A-League.
Though a potentially serious injury to striker Brandon Borrello marred an otherwise perfect night for the visitors, it was his replacement – a former Sydney FC youth player – who clinched the victory.
The fact it came at the home of their bitter rivals just added to the piquancy of the win; there wasn’t the swagger and slew of goals that marked their 4-0 triumph here in March, but any derby win is to be treasured.