Western Sydney Wanderers have made a successful start to the new A-League season with a 1-0 win over Perth Glory at CommBank Stadium.
A drop off in intensity from Saturday night’s Big Blue was to be expected, but unfortunately the standard of play was nowhere near either. Granted, neither side is expected to be at the apex of the A-League ladder, but nevertheless it was an uninspiring start for each team.
It was an uneventful opening period with both sides easing into the game and the new season.
New signing Calem Nieuwenhof had the first chance of the match when he made his way through the Perth midfield effortlessly, before seeing his shot blocked away for a corner.
A promising Wanderers counter-attack was prematurely ended by Darryl Lachman, the big centre-back going into the referee’s book for a professional foul.
The home side were able to control possession but rarely penetrated the Perth defence.
Up top on his own most of the time, Bruno Fornaroli did what he could while being harassed by the Wanderers’ centre-backs, managing to hold up the ball and either bring his teammates into play or win valuable free-kicks.
It remained scoreless at half-time in an unexciting contest.
Wanderers made the better of the opening period of the second half, looking more lively after what was likely a stern talking-to from Marko Rudan in the sheds at half-time.
There was still a lack of penetration, however, and the home side weren’t manging to test Liam Reddy in the Perth goal.
Ruben Zadkovich went to his bench in the 63rd minute with a triple substitution, bringing on David Williams, Mitchell Oxborrow and Matthew Hatch in hopes of sparking something for his team who hadn’t shown much up to that point.
Milos Ninkovic, ever the crafty dribbler, found himself with some room to shoot on the edge of the penalty area but could only direct his strike straight into the arms of Reddy.
The opening goal finally arrived in the 78th minute after a goalmouth scramble ended with new boy Sulejman Krpic heading home.
There was some schadenfreude for Sydney FC fans when Krpic was denied by Liam Reddy from the penalty spot. It was still a good stop from the experienced gloveman, but Krpic never looked confident as he stepped up for the chance at his second goal in a red and black jersey.
It’s going to be a long season in the west
Apologies to any Perth Glory fans reading. If it wasn’t enough that they’ve been forced to play the vast majority of their homes games at the suburban Macedonia Park in Stirling, it’s looking like another wooden spoon is likely for the Glory.
Most pre-season predictions had Perth right down the bottom of the ladder, and it’s not hard to see why. Off-season additions include Mustafa Amini, Stefan Colakovski and 34-year-old David Williams. Colakovski is a decent signing, but apart from Amini, who will bring class, pedigree and experience to the engine room, there’s no one who will move the needle significantly enough to allow Perth to improve on their dismal 2021-22 campaign.
Respectable crowd can be improved on
Firstly, it was great to see the RBB looking full and providing plenty of atmosphere again. It goes without saying, but here goes anyway: active support is one of the most distinct things about our beautiful game and it needs to be utilised way better by the relevant authorities.
As always the RBB did their best to include the rest of the ground, with mixed results.
Western Sydney fans haven’t had much to cheer about over the last few years, and coupled with their move to Olympic Park, plenty of fans from their early days have been alienated and will need extra motivation to return. This can, to some extent, explain their attendance woes in recent times.
Today’s crowd of 8984 is nothing to be sneezed at considering Perth were the opponents. If they can average close to 9000 this season it’s still a win.
But this is one of the competition’s biggest clubs, along with Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, and if the A-League is to even come close to hitting a respectable average crowd with Macarthur and the Western United and Perth Glory debacles, Wanderers fans certainly needing to be pulling their own weight.
Will Wanderers’ new-look squad bring success?
It’s no secret that Wanderers have, as is tradition, turned over the majority of their squad from 2022-23. It’s a risky strategy, considering it hasn’t borne fruit for years.
The most compelling narrative is, of course, Milos Ninkovic, who started today, but with experienced players Lawrence Thomas, Brandon Borrello and Oliver Bozanic, attacking midfielder Romain Amalfitano and promising youngster Calem Nieuwenhof, it’s a squad that is definitely capable of making noise in 2022-23.
It’s Mark Rudan’s first full season in charge and after nine months in the role and the backing of the board, he’ll be under absolutely no illusions as to what the club expects: success. Now, how success is quantified exactly remains to be seen, but finishing in the top six is an absolute must. It’s been an unacceptable five seasons without finals football for Western Sydney – past time for the one of the league’s biggest clubs to return to prominence.