In front of another dismal-looking Spotless Stadium crowd, two out-of-form teams played out a scrappy and uneventful contest, with Western Sydney Wanderers profiting 2-0 over Central Coast Mariners.
The most notable moments of the first half-hour were Kwame Yeboah’s forced withdrawal with a groin injury, and Daniel Garb pointing out that Thai Airways hoardings had been removed in solidarity with Hakeem Al-Araibi.
Oriol Riera missed a sitter on the stroke of halftime, heading into the post from point-blank range with the goal gaping. But the ball was only half-cleared to Tarek Elrich, and the full-back’s in-swinging cross bounced in the six-yard box and went straight in off the post, without a touch on the way.
The fortuitous opening goal was a blessing for Western Sydney, who now had the luxury of picking off the previously stubborn Mariners on the break. Jaushua Sotirio did just that in the 77th minute, running onto a Roly Bonevacia through ball and nudging the ball past the onrushing Ben Kennedy.
While far from a complete performance, Markus Babbel will be thrilled with a rare clean sheet. Mike Mulvey, on the other hand, has tried just about everything this season to little reward, and the limp manner of the defeat was a demoralising one for the Mariners faithful.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS
Vedran Janjetovic - 7
Shanked a clearance early on and seemed nervous after his poor run of form. Attempted to release Russell with a throw early in the second half but put too much on it, leading to a dangerous turnover.
Janjetovic redeemed himself by saving well from Millar, but he’d brought the pressure on himself. Drew ironic cheers from the home crowd when he let a loose ball dribble out for a goal kick – despite keeping a clean sheet, his relationship with the Wanderers fan base remains fractured.
Tate Russell – 7.5
Another solid performance by the youngster, who didn’t give Connor Pain much change down his flank. Didn’t show a great deal in attack, but his coach will be pleased with his diligent defensive display.
Tas Mourdoukoutas – 7.5
Not the most formidable attack he will face in the A-League, but the Wanderers youth product was a key contributor to a rare clean sheet at Spotless.
Brendan Hamill – 7
Booked for a rugby tackle on Hiariej, but the captain learned his lesson and didn’t get caught up field again. Won plenty in the air, but without Matt Simon, the Mariners didn’t have the cavalry to challenge in that department.
Tarek Elrich – 7.5
Opened the scoring with a fluke cross that went all the way in. Wrong-footed by Millar’s body feint minutes beforehand, but overall this was one of his better displays. Not too adventurous going forward, but that was clearly not Babbel’s focus in this fixture.