Western Sydney Wanderers FC’s wait for a first win of the A-League season will continue for at least a week after they lost 2-1 away to Melbourne City on Sunday.
The visitors struck first at AAMI Park through debutant Yojiro Takahagi, but it was City who walked away with all three points, Jacob Melling equalising before the break and former Wanderer Aaron Mooy grabbing the winner against his old side with 17 minutes to go.
The result sees City, occupying the last finals berth in sixth spot, open up a seven-point gap on nearest challenger Brisbane Roar, who are in action at home to Wellington Phoenix on Monday night.
Western Sydney meanwhile, last season’s beaten grand finalists and the AFC Champions League holders, improbably remain winless with just four points to show for 13 matches played in the 2014-15 A-League season.
WHAT THEY SAID
“We have a never give up mentality. The boys kept working hard and fighting and we got the goal back and got the result in the end. It’s a credit to all the boys.” – City midfielder Jacob Melling
“Another disappointing result. I think we were a step behind the whole match except for maybe the first 15 minutes. It’s not very nice where were sitting but we have to keep our heads up and keep moving forward.” – Wanderers goal-keeper Ante Covic
0-1 (Yojiro Takahagi, 5′)
One of two Japanese reinforcements making their Wanderers’ debut, the man lured to Australia from Sanfrecce Hiroshima opened the scoring unexpectedly when his low, innocuous free-kick missed every player in the box and eluded goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, nestling in the far corner of the net.
1-1 (Melling, 24′)
City equalised in the 25th minute courtesy of Melling, who climbed high to nod home Mooy’s cutback after an excellent through-ball from Robert Koren released the former Wanderer in beyond Western Sydney’s defence.
2-1 (Mooy, 73′)
Jason Hoffman, overlapping on the right, got into the penalty area and reached the by-line before cutting the ball back to Mooy at the top of the box. The 24-year-old reminded Tony Popovic and the Wanderers faithful what they are missing out on by guiding a superb curling finish to the top corner.
Takahagi might have scored but fellow newcomer Yusuke Tanaka did his part at the back, particularly in the 58th minute, when he used his head to clear a Koren shot off the line with Ante Covic beaten.
Redmayne, only restored to the starting XI due to Tando Velaphi’s suspension, didn’t help his chances of a permanent recall with his questionable reaction to Takahagi’s goal.
But it’s Iain Ramsay who, had City failed to find the winner, would perhaps have incurred a greater portion of John van ‘t Schip’s wrath.
The former Adelaide United man missed good chances in both halves, shanking a shot off his ankle and over the bar before the break and then somehow contriving to steer the ball wide of an open goal in the 68th minute from an easier opportunity.
It was one of the misses of the season and left City’s long-suffering fans fuming.
Ben Garuccio, who eased City’s fullback woes when he returned to fitness part-way through the first half of the season, was forced off before the break. Thankfully, preliminary reports suggested the wide player had only rolled his ankle.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Surely Takahagi and Tanaka can do better than the sumo-wrestling impersonation that greeted the opening goal. We suggest staging an imaginary tea ceremony on the pitch the next time one of the duo hits the back of the net.
THE FINAL WORD
City, whose fans were perhaps nursing a few hangovers from the Socceroos’ Asian Cup final triumph the night before, can expect the atmosphere at their next match to rise several notches when they tackle Melbourne Victory in the derby at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The Wanderers meanwhile will prepare to host Wellington in the unfamiliar surrounds of Penrith.
Melbourne City: Redmayne, Hoffman, Chapman, Kisnorbo, Paartalu, Mooy, Melling, Koren, Garuccio (Clisby 36′), Duff (Williams 66′), Ramsay (Murdocca 81′).
Western Sydney: Covic, Tanaka, Topor-Stanley, Hamill, Gallaway, Poljak, Kalmar (Perkatis 62′), Takahagi (Sotirio 77′), Bridge, Santalab (Haliti 76′), Rukavytsya.
Scorers: Takahagi (4′), Melling (25′), Mooy (73′)
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: None
Conditions: 19 degrees, overcast
Attendance: 7561 @ AAMI Park