A new year and perhaps a new era for Western Sydney Wanderers, who bounced back from a humiliating defeat to Newcastle Jets to claim their first home win of the season under the tenure of coach Josep Gombau, beating Melbourne City 2-1 at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.
It was a result that took considerable pressure off the shoulders of the under-fire coach but fell short of exonerating him from the recent poor run of results. There were signs of his “process” coming to life with a better command of possession but there was still little evidence of that translating into genuine opportunities and systemic attacking threats. A positive result bought him more time in the job but the win was one first and foremost for the players.
For the first time since Gombau took charge, the players showed the commitment and determination expected from their fans and made clear during the week. Much of that was lead by Oriol Riera and Vedran Janjetovic, whose individual performances heavily influenced the result, if not decided it.
The Spanish striker scored one and set up another in a true leader’s display while the Wanderers’ goalkeeper made a definitive penalty save to secure Gombau’s first home win.
However, the new dawn didn’t start brightly for the Wanderers, who lost marquee Alvaro Cejudo with a calf injury in the opening minutes of the match that could signal a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
“Looks not good, honestly,” Gombau said. “When he feel it was in his calf, he needed to go off straight away???. Now we need to make the scan to see exactly but it does not look good.”
For the most part, those made for frustrating viewing. It took 19 minutes for the Wanderers to register their first attempt on goal and when that finally arrived, it was in vain, harmless yet still applauded by a small crowd starving for action.
For the most part, the Wanderers were happy controlling possession in non-threatening areas. Despite having their share of the ball, they soon found themselves trailing in a match again.
A powerfully driven cross from City forward Nathaniel Atkinson fell to the feet of striker Ross McCormack, who made no mistake in calmly finishing from a metre out to make it 1-0 for the visitors.
That lead lasted just five minutes. Haphazard defending was seized upon immediately by the Wanderers when marquee Riera provided the desperately needed influence up-front. The Spanish striker latched on to a cross inside the box with his back to goal and a quick shot on the turn saw the hosts draw level in the 30th minute.
Riera turned provided minutes later, slipping a clever pass to Mark Bridge, who made no mistake with a well-weighted finish into the far corner of the net, giving Western Sydney a lead that not much earlier appeared to be well beyond them. More importantly, it breathed confidence into the team.
Nobody showed that better than goalkeeper Janjetovic. After City were awarded a penalty for a clumsy foul by Robert Cornthwaite on Nick Fitzgerald, the Wanderers’ goalkeeper pulled off a superb save low to his left.
A Josh Risdon injury in the 52nd minute soured the Wanderers’ victory. The introduction of youngster Daniel Arzani added some life into the City attack and hopes of drawing level but a late save from Janjetovic to deny Luke Brattan from an injury-time free kick sealed the match for the Wanderers.