Western Sydney put both hands on the Premiers’ Plate with a hard-fought victory over Wellington Phoenix to move five points clear at the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
Western Sydney put one hand on the Premiers’ Plate with a 2-1 victory over Wellington to move five points clear at the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
A penalty early in each half from Shinji Ono and Mark Bridge respectively proved enough to see off a spirited showing from the league’s bottom side.
The Wanderers’ ninth consecutive victory is a record winning streak from the debutant A-League club, surpassing the Melbourne Victory’s previous mark of eight.
With so much on the line it was little surprise that the Wanderers started with gusto and Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss had to be alert to deny Labinot Haliti after just five minutes.
The Wanderers were not to be denied, however, and took the lead just three minutes later.
Youssouf Hersi exchanged a couple of short passes with Haliti, with the former fouled by Tony Lochhead in the penalty area, and Parramatta Stadium hero Ono comfortably converted by sending Moss the wrong way.
With the Wanderers crowd in full voice, the Phoenix managed to score with their first attack of the match.
Leo Bertos latched onto a far post cross and his low ball into the danger area was turned in at close range by the in-form Jeremy Brockie.
Despite the early goals the action remained relatively muted with Haliti spurning another good opportunity to score in one of the first half’s few openings at either end.
The hero of last week’s top-of-the-table victory over Central Coast pulled his shot well wide from a similar position to that which produced the famous winner eight days earlier.
The Wanderers made a perfect restart after the interval although they literally enjoyed a helping hand from the Phoenix.
Vince Lia inexplicably handled a relatively harmless cross from the right and Bridge comfortably converted with a carbon-copy of Ono’s earlier conversion.
Bridge assumed the spot-kick responsibilities from Ono, with the Wanderers marquee man replaced at the interval by Dino Kresinger.
The Wanderers had commenced the second half in much the same way they did the first, only this time they continued to build upon their early momentum.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley had a free header on goal, albeit in a congested penalty area, but was only able to power his effort straight into the grateful arms of Moss.
The ever-lively Haliti again flashed an effort wide after he latched onto a ball momentarily loose in the penalty area.
The Phoenix struggled for fluency at times and Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic remained a spectator for lengthy periods.
Wellington’s Qantas Young Socceroos striker Corey Gameiro fired in a volley which Covic comfortably grasped just past the hour mark but it was to be a rare sight of goal for the visitors.
Hersi forced Moss into a sharp near-post save as the home side heaped pressure on Moss’ under-siege goal, although the winning margin would remain unchanged.
Bet365 Man of the Mach: Jerome Polenz
The German defender played his usual marauding role out on the right and his backheel to help Youssouf Hersi win the penalty for the first goal was pure class.
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Ono 5p, Bridge 48p)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Brockie 22)
Crowd: 15,809 @Parramatta Stadium