Wanderers wilt in sweltering West


Perth Glory 2 (Wuthrich 18′; Grant 66′) Western Sydney Wanderers 0

Both teams started with the opportunity of moving to fifth place if they claimed the three points on offer. But Glory scored a goal in each half to claim their first home win of the season, as Perth sweltered in an unseasonal heatwave.

First Greg Wuthrich scored with a header, then fellow central defender, Alex Grant, lethally slotted home to seal the victory for the Western Australian side.

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Markus Babbel is left to rue the sixth game his side has gone without a win since beating on-fire local rivals Sydney FC back in October, as they’ve slid from top to seventh.

In contrasting fortunes, with back to back wins, Tony Popovic’s reigning Premiers have transcended their mini-crisis by vaulting from last to fifth in the eleven-team A-League table.

The game kicked off at 6.45pm with a temperature of 34C, cooling to 32C at half-time. The Perth side, having sustained training in these conditions since the heatwave started on Wednesday, quickly demonstrated their superior adaptation to the freakish early summer heat.

Apart from Wanderers danger-man muscular Mitch Duke shaving the bar in the first few minutes, Glory dominated the early exchanges. Right wing-back Ivan Franjic saw a lot of the ball, but it was a corner from the left that broke the deadlock.

Glory’s midfield orchestrator Neil Kilkenny flighted it in and big Tomi Mrcela headed into the danger area. The knock on seemed out of Uruguayan forward Bruno Fornaroli’s reach, but his acrobatic scissor kick found Chris Ikonomidis who headed against the bar, with central defender Greg Wuthrich rising to bury the rebound. Glory were 1-0 up after 18 minutes.

Glory have seldom taken the lead during this stuttering campaign and their style is not suited to chasing lost causes. But the Perth side were now in the situation Popovic had been craving as he exhorted his defensive charges to keep it tight and force the Wanderers to chase the game for the rest of the first half.

Popa exhorts defence. Photo credit: McNeela/Prost

This they by and large achieved despite Wanderers sturdy attackers Duke and Kwame Yeboah occasionally strong-arming themselves into threatening positions.

In the latter stages of the first half, El Maestro, Glory’s Diego Castro, revelled in the blistering heat as the imperious Iberian tortured the Wanderers with sublime passes and dribbles, like a merciless matador spearing a raging bull.

The second half saw the Wanderers emerge with renewed vigour and purpose. Their normally debonair German coach, understandably, but regrettably, dressing down for the conditions, nevertheless seemed to have found the key to motivate his team during their half-time team talk.

Yeboah, Macedonian right wing-back Daniel Georgevski and midfield playmaker Keanu Baccus, in particular, seemed determined to contest the three points for Wanderers.

In the 52nd minute the awesome power of Mitch Duke swept him past two Glory defenders but he should have done better from the position he gained as his cross/shot evaporated harmlessly.

Glory gradually regained the initiative and had the best of the rest of the proceedings.

Their advantage doubled in the 66th minute. Growing frustration at being unable to shackle Castro led to frayed tempers as Wanderers Swiss midfielder Pirmin Schwegler clattered into him to foil a promising foray down the left. Georgevski then went forehead to forehead with his opposite number James Meredith as Western Sydney seemed to momentarily lose concentration. A free kick was awarded for the foul on Castro about 20 metres out to the left of the box.

Substitute Jake Brimmer floated it in, former Bundesliga top scorer Alexander Meier got a head to it, only succeeding in diverting into the path of Glory central defender Alex Grant. The Perth favourite took one touch before adroitly slamming it home with his left.

Grant’s first A-League goal since the 6th of November 2016, against the same opposition, sparked spectacular celebrations with his family in the crowd.

More Castro magic in the 93rd minute left a Wanderer sprawling on the floor, flailing after a majestic turn, as El Maestro offered substitute Jacob Tratt an early Christmas present. But the recent signing from Brisbane Roar coughed up his chance to make it a hat-trick of goals for central defenders and will no doubt endure the taunts of his colleagues at the training ground all week.

But Tratt’s immediate blushes were spared thanks to the goal-scoring endeavours of Grant and Wuthrich who will surely be delighted to tutor him in finishing for the rest of the year.

Popovic was satisfied with Glory’s first win of the season but admitted “I was nervous on the bench because of the conditions”.

Babbel lauded his team’s motivation but bemoaned their ability to score and get results.

Babbel unhappy with result. Photo: McNeela/Prost

Popa happy with a nervy three points in the heat. Photo credit: McNeela/Prost











About Author

Scozzie reporting on A-League and other stuff from the Indian Ocean shores. St. Johnstone fan. Follow me on twitter @perthmcneela.

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