Western Sydney Wanderers v Wellington Phoenix – Round 2
On a sunny afternoon in front of over 16,000 spectators, the Wanderers and Phoenix played out a 1-1 draw. Jerome Polenz scored his first senior goal 15 minutes into the game, to give the home team the lead, only for it to be cancelled out by Jeremy Brockie on the hour mark.
The home team started strongly and created several chances in the first 25 minutes and should have added to their goal before half time, Wanderers coach Tony Popovic reflected after the match that he was “disappointed” that they didn’t kill of the game, when they were on top.
“We started really well and played some great football, we showed some progression in areas of our game” he said.
The visitors shook off a sluggish start to the match and started to grow in confidence, boosted by the return of their international players, Wellington had the better of the second half.
After the match, coach Ernie Merrick stated that his team’s best football is yet to come and is “about 5 to 6 games away” with a lack of “quality preseason games” give as the reason.
It was no surprise to see marquee Shinji Ono back in the starting line up, alongside last week’s goal scorer Tomi Juric, both Haliti and La Rocca made way as the Wanderers lined up in their familiar formation of 4-2-3-1. The bench was made up of a defender, a midfielder and two forwards, a clear indication of the home team’s desire to get a win.
Early on in the match the Wanderers had the lion’s share of possession and chances, however the injury to Aaron Mooy in the first 10 minutes, appeared to disrupt the rhythm of the team in attack, substitute Iacopo La Rocca did not have the same cutting edge going forward.
For the second week in a row the Wanderers conceded a goal from their left hand side as Adam D’Apuzzo was beaten by Paul Ifill , who whipped in a ball that split the center pairing of Beauchamp and Topor-Stanley.
After the match when questioned on the defensive mistakes leading to Wellington’s equalizer, Popovic stated, “goals usually result from a mistake”.
The Turning Point:
As Ray Gatt, chief football writer for the Australian, pointed out Ernie Merrick does not get the credit he deserves for his football achievements (wining two A-League Championships, with Melbourne Victory).
Merrick analysed the match and was prepared to make a big call early, and that is this week’s turning point; Merrick’s tactical substitution 31 minutes into the match.
Forward Stein Huysegems made way for midfielder Jason Hicks, to deal with the dangerous Wanderers’ attacks, as Merrick felt he needed more in midfield.
Hicks had a good game and made a difference in the middle of the park for the Phoenix, linking the play and creating chances for his teammates.
The colour and noise around Parramatta ensured the atmosphere inside the stadium was world class and indicative of the region of Western Sydney. Paying a compliment to the home supporters was visiting coach, Merrick who mentioned the “fantastic crowd, great atmosphere”.
Even though the home team started positively they could not sustain their performance for 90 minutes, and with Mooy leaving the field injured, the home team began to struggle. Sensing an opportunity Merrick made the tactical changes necessary to influence the match, which they did.
Both teams deserved the point for their efforts, but the feeling around Parramatta after the match was that, the Wanderers let two points slip.
The Week Ahead:
Next week the Phoenix are at home to the struggling Jets, whilst the Wanderers will make the short trip east to play Sydney FC. The Sydney derby is shaping up to be a blockbuster, as the Wanderers attempt to get their first win of the season and FC look to bounce back from their embarrassing 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the Roar.