The Best and Worst of Wanderers vs Wellington Phoenix (Rd 16)

A-League Round 16 vs Wellington Phoenix – 13/01/2018 Westpac Stadium
1-1 Draw

Welcome to the latest edition of The Best and Worst series. They are coming in thick and fast and this time we travel across the ditch to face what seems to be a resurgent Phoenix outfit.

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Best – Strong Lineup
On paper, the starting lineup was fine and good enough to beat the Phoenix. Hamill replaces the suspended Captain Cornthwaite. Riera drops behind Santa to fill the gap of the suspended Chris Herd. Clisby and Llorente remain as the fullbacks due to Risdon still not recovering from his injury and Lustica starts again at right wing. The bench had a bunch of young kids which was exciting as they could bring an unknown X-factor into the game when needed…

Best – Santa Loves The Nix
8 Goals in 5 Games. That is the stat for Brendon Santalab versus Wellington Phoenix. Not a bad statistic at all. Once again he became their arch nemesis as he put the Wanderers in front with a great volley in a congested box following a set piece. Defending was poor as Durante just watched Santa line up the volley without really challenging him. I’m not complaining with the lack of challenge or the goal keeping. 1-0 up following some measure of control of the game in the first half.

Best – Versatile Riera
Riera has had to be moved around a bit this past week. Either playing as the no.9, alongside Santa and now this week behind Santa and clearly as an attacking midfielder. I’ve mentioned in previous weeks that even as the lone centre forward, Riera drops deep to start attacks and provide another outlet. This week this was his task, as Santa starting at the point of attack. Riera was dropping really deep, almost alongside Bonevacia at times. His vision is on display when he receives the ball with his back to goal on the halfway line, quickly turns and releases a winger. He knows what he wants to do with the ball before he gets it. His off the ball work rate is outstanding. Its a shame though that due to injuries and availability that he couldn’t always be at the end of the attacks and putting the ball away. Riera is so important to this team and once we get a full team back and upgrade our wingers, he’ll be banging them into the back of the net regularly.

Worst – Fitness
This is going to sound like a broken record because we’ve been talking about this since Round 1. The fact that our team completely falls apart and runs out of gas from the 60th minute.
It was even more obvious this week due to the fact we’ve had 3 games in 8 days. The likes of Vedran, Thwaite, Llorente, Clisy, Bridge, Riera, Baccus have all played 90 minutes in all 3 games.
Bridge, Lustica, Bonevacia and Baccus looked gassed. Slow to release the ball, lazy passes, lazy to get back, no urgency in attack. It was increasingly obvious that we needed some fresh legs out there to counter the Nix’s half time change of bringing on Burns and Ljujic. Gombau didn’t make the required changes and we were lucky to hold on for a draw. Instead of going for the win and controlling the match, we were pushed back and held on for dear life against the team coming last. I can’t fault the backline as Thwaite had a blinder. But the rest of the team lacked the fitness to get us over the line.

Worst – Need Some Youth Injection
Following on from the previous point, Gombau made 1 change early in the 2nd half, bringing on new signing Carrusca for Santalab in a formation shuffle. Santa looked perplexed but it was probably required. I thought, “good, he is going to make subs to win this game.”
Then…nothing.
He had Kosta Grozos and Lachlan Scott on the bench. Youthful exuberance waiting to be unleashed. Grozos has been on the bench all week and hasn’t been awarded any game time, which is disappointing as I’ve only heard positive things about him.
Gombau only made a change in the 88th minute when Hamill was sent off. Otherwise it seemed he was happy to see the team desperately defend the draw.
This game was winnable if we had fresh legs out there but for some reason Gombau opted not to give the likes of Grozos a run for someone like Lustica or Bridge who were ineffective in the last half hour of the match.

Worst – Referring Inconsistency
Nothing frustrates me more than seeing carbon copy (or worse) fouls from opposition players go unpunished when a few minutes earlier a Wanderers player was shown a yellow card for less.
Stats tell me the foul count was 20 to 11 in Nix’s favour. Nix were given 3 yellows with WSW shown 2 (Hamill receiving both). Not long after Hamill’s first, Durante committed a similar, if not worse, challenge and we were lucky to receive a free kick for it. Krishna all game was coming in late and from behind and not once did he receive a yellow card or warning. Hamill’s second was extremely soft and could be argued not worthy of a yellow card at all.

This follows a trend from the previous game against Adelaide where the reds received their first yellow card in the 90th minute, despite committing 20 fouls. WSW committed 14 fouls but were given 4 yellow cards. Two of them caused Herd and Cornthwaite to miss this game against Wellington. There is a massive disparity here and it has repercussions on the game itself and future games.

Best – Week Rest, Returning Players
A much needed 6 days rest awaits the squad before taking on Melbourne Victory at home on Friday night.
Cornthwaite and Herd return from suspension and let’s hope Risdon is back so Llorente can return to his favoured left back role. We haven’t heard anything regarding Cejudo but there’s a possibility he could return also. We need all hands on deck to take on an inconsistent Melbourne Victory outfit. Antonis will return to the west after snubbing an offer to become a full time Wanderer to make it in Europe.
We’re still undefeated in 2018 (#CalendarYearStats) with 8 points out of 12. It would have been nicer for that to be 10 out of 12, as it would have pushed us up the table into 4th. Right now, 6th isn’t guaranteed due to the last two draws.
A win with a fresh squad on Friday night will start the weekend well.

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