For many it has been a long off season of waiting for Australia’s top division football to return, for Wanderers fans it has felt that much longer with the much anticipated return to Wanderland.
In what was a very anticlimactic start to the game, it was slow build up and holding possession for the first 5 minutes. The Wanderers couldn’t find a way to break down the Central Coast defence.
After being forced to start with a squad that was far from full strength with injuries to Radoslaw Majewski, Kwame Yeboah & Bruce Kamau it is understandable that Wanderers fans would be very concerned at the sight of seeing Tarek Elrich limping off after just 16 minutes with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Central Coast built on their good start when Milan Duric smashed home a great strike off the underside of the Crossbar from 20 yards out in the 36th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Mariners going ahead was more of a blessing for WSW as they were suddenly woken and began to play some quality football that clearly hadn’t been there in the opening 40 minutes.
In the 40th minute WSW finally equalised when Mark Birighitti was unable to keep out Mitchell Duke’s header from a corner ball mistake from Mariner Dylan Fox.
Just on the strike of half time Daniel Georgievski went in with plenty of force on Mariners striker Jordan Murray, leaving him worse for wear. Mariners Manager Alen Stajcic made his thoughts perfectly clear on the tackle showing his clear disgust that Georgievski was allowed to remain on the pitch as he escaped with just a yellow.
1-1 was the score at half time and given how well the Mariners had played, it’s safe to say WSW were lucky to be right in the game at the interval.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Mariner Samuel Silvera entered the fray. Many including myself thought he should have started the game after some strong performances in the Mariners FFA Cup run.
Birighitti made himself a hero with a save from a shot by Kostandinos Grozoz which looked destined for the bottom corner. Birighitti was only able to parry the ball to the side of the goals and not out of play which turned into a fantastic double save as Mohamed Adam followed up on the first saved shot.
VAR got a fair workout in last nights season opener but had been unused in this game. That was until the 77th minute when WSW and their fans pleaded penalty for a handball infringment. Initially Iranian referee Alireza Faghani waved play on but VAR got into his ear and said there may be a case here! After studying the footage, the referee pointed to the spot!!
Duke stepped up and banged home the penalty in what had been a lackluster performance from the Wanderers, they somehow found themselves up 2-1 !
Mariners pushed hard to find the equaliser which many would believe they deserved. Wanderers newcomer keeper Daniel Lopar made some brilliant saves and striker Duke turned defender for a goal line clearance.
That was the final action of the game and it was a happy return to Wanderland for Western Sydney!
It’s hard to know what both teams will take from this result. Central Coast Mariners will feel disappointed to be leaving with nothing to show for it, while WSW will be loving the result in the return to their spiritual home.
If we are to take anything from this game i think it’s clear to see it could be an up and down season for both teams.
Only time will tell!
Written by Dan Bowerman (WSW fan)