Western Sydney Wanderers have all but sealed a spot in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series with an impressive 3-1 win over Melbourne City at Spotless Stadium on Friday night.
A hat-trick from the in-form Brendon Santalab cancelled out an early strike from Neil Kilkenny as the Wanderers secured back-to-back wins at their adopted home ground.
In heavy conditions, City started the brighter and took the lead just three minutes in with Kilkenny firing home his second goal of the season.
Wanderers settled into the contest and grabbed a deserved equaliser with Santalab punishing the visitors for a sloppy turnover in the 22nd minute.
The hosts continued to dictate proceedings and should have gone into the break in the lead with Nico Martinez spurning a glorious opportunity just before the interval.
After a stop-start opening to the second stanza, Western Sydney took control of the contest with Santalab netting twice in four minutes to virtually seal the result with just over 20 minutes remaining.
City looked to grab a lifeline in the final 15 minutes after Nick Fitzgerald was fouled in the area but talismanic striker Bruno Fornaroli saw his ensuing spot kick saved by Vedran Janjetovic.
0-1 Melbourne City: Neil Kilkenny, 3’
City winger Nick Fitzgerald cut in off the right flank and picked out Kilkenny on the edge of the area, with the midfielder’s first-time strike taking a wicked deflection before nestling into the back of the net.
1-1 Western Sydney Wanderers: Brendon Santalab, 22’
Nico Martinez found the ball following a sloppy City turnover before picking out Santalab inside the area with the striker blasting a left-footed strike past Thomas Sorensen.
2-1 Western Sydney Wanderers: Brendon Santalab, 64’
Kearyn Baccus found Scott Neville in space on the right flank with the fullback whipping in a dangerous cross which Santalab headed in from six yards.
3-1 Western Sydney Wanderers: Brendon Santalab, 68’
Wanderers pushed forward on the counter with Jack Clisby surging towards the area before his miscued pass ricocheted into the box with Santalab reacting quickest to nod it past Sorensen.
City had the chance up a grandstand finish with 15 minutes remaining after Nick Fitzgerald earned his side a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Kearyn Baccus. But Bruno Fornaroli was unable to convert from the spot with Wanderers keeper Vedran Janjetovic saving easily with his legs.