There’s no place like home
THE West is back – and so is the derby.
The Wanderers claimed first blood of the season after defeating Sydney FC at Bankwest Stadium by a single goal last night. Mitch Duke’s first half strike was enough to settle a throbbing, pulsating encounter and earn Markus Babbel’s side just a fifth derby win in their history.
DUKE’S A HAZARD
A third goal of the season for Western Sydney’s captain confirmed the feeling that Duke has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. In this instance it was to meet a deft cross from Daniel Georgievski with a thumping header to open the scoring on 19 minutes.
Pity Sydney’s makeshift leftback Paulo Retre, though, whose ill-advised and ill-executed flick handed Western Sydney possession in the most vulnerable of areas and allowed them to score.
“It’s difficult to take but I’m proud of the boys – we created chances but the goals weren’t going in,” said Sydney coach Steve Corica.
LOPAR’S SAVING GRACE Several sharp stops from the Wanderers goalkeeper suggested again that he is a fine acquisition, even if his goal led a charmed life at times.
Milos Ninkovic and Adam Le Fondre were both denied, the latter also somehow shot wide when clean through, and another Lopar save scooped the ball up on or behind the line from Le Fondre’s header. The referee said it hadn’t crossed the line and the VAR couldn’t overturn that call — nor the referee’s denial of a penalty for Keanu Bacchus’s alleged handball.
“Of course we had luck in many situations, but it’s a learning process and every win helps,” Babbel said.
THE DERBY WE NEEDED
From the cacophony in the stands to thundering tackles on the turf, this was a Sydney derby to serve as a marketing tool for the A-League. The
RBB filled their safe standing zone and unfurled the chants that used to rock the old Parramatta Stadium, and The Cove responded in kind.
“The stadium was great, as were the fans, it was a top derby,” said Corica. “There were tackles flying, apart from the result it was a great night.”
NINKOVIC STILL HAS IT
Alex Baumjohann looked like a man determined to own the occasion but Milos Ninkovic actually played like it. Booed incessantly, the German raced in pursuit of the ball but if anything the ball sought out the Serb, whose distribution all night was masterly. His was the reverse pass from which Le Fondre should have scored, and his was the audacious scoop that beat Lopar but came back off the bar.
BALANCE OF POWER IS WOBBLING
Only twice in 22 A-League derbies had the Wanderers beaten their crosscity rivals and finished the game ahead of them on the ladder.
So to claim the first derby of the season – just the Wanderers’ second such victory in n almost six years, incredibly – was sweet enough. . But to go above e Sydney at the top p was even greater r delight for the e home fans.
“The support- ers helped us a lot, , when you’re struggling you need that,” Babbel said.
“It’s important t for this club that t we all come back k together.”
Mitchell Duke of the Wanderers celebrates his winner with Daniel Georgievski during last night’s derby with Sydney FC and (below) Wanderers fans. Pictures: James Gourley, Getty