Western Sydney Wanderers got the first of their two games in hand done in the best possible way, defeating a poor Wellington Phoenix 4-0 at ANZ Stadium.
With their first attack of the game, Western Sydney had the ball in the back of the net. After multiple shots on goal, there was some pinball in the box before a ball was teed up for Oriol Riera to head home his third goal in three games to make it 1-0.
In the second half, Western Sydney continued their finals push by maintaining a stranglehold on possession, the statistics and the chances. Another goal seemed destined to arrive and it came from the unlikeliest of sources as Michael Thwaite powered home his fourth ever goal with a header from a corner.
Chris Ikonomidis sealed the win with a fine finish, scoring his first A-League goal in the process. The Wanderers had time to make the away side pay again, however.
After Italiano made the first save from substitute Brendon Santalab, Jaushua Sotorio followed up and Italiano allowed the ball to trickle past him and into the net.
Wellington defence ponderous and porous yet again
Riera scored an inch-perfect header in the Wanderers’ first meaningful attack as the Phoenix struggled yet again at the back.
The NZ team, missing Roy Krishna and Marco Rossi, started with 17-year-old Liberato Cacace as the starting left back, Dylan Fox alongside captain Andrew Durante and Scott Galloway on the bench.
But the young Aussie was not on the bench for long, and he replaced Daniel Mullen on the half hour mark. From the opening whistle it was one-way traffic, with the Nix defence exposed time and again.
Open-ended game controlled by Wanderers from start to finish
Without Krishna, the Phoenix lacked the firepower necessary up front to cause problems and the Wanderers scrambled well when needed. The Red and Black rearguard always seemed to be in control, whereas the Nix back line looked under pressure for the majority of the contest.
They scored early in the first and second halves and never looked likely to concede against a Phoenix side low on confidence and that struggled to get a shot on target.
The Wanderers had attack after attack, racking up their most shots of the season by just the 65th minute. Then in the 83rd they hit 30 shots – the most in their history. T
hey also managed to score three goals in the second half, doubling their total goals scored in second half’s for the season in one fell swoop.
Phoenix season over as Wanderers play-off push begins
With this loss, the Phoenix remain rooted to the bottom of the table on 14 Points. Western Sydney jumped to sixth position a full 12 points above the Kiwi side on 26.
The NZ side are now in real danger of the wooden spoon and it will take an absolute miracle for them to somehow make the play-offs with only eight games remaining this season.
The Wanderers will use this win as a springboard for the rest of their season. Josep Gombau will be extremely happy with a job well done while Darije Kalezic must feel that his job security is under threat. Big big changes are required at the Nix.