Merciless Sydney eviscerate Wanderers 5-0 in derby

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    A revolution can’t occur without a violent reset. The slate must be harshly wiped clean for a new regime to stand stable and secure.

    With Josep Gombau’s takeover at the Western Sydney Wanderers wobbling as it takes its first steps, the Spaniard’s starting XI was scrubbed of five players. What better way to lustrate his team than in the caustic waters of the derby?

    As the Wanderers’ season has limped on these last few weeks, this fixture has stood out as a pivotal challenge, one that might rouse them from the grips their malaise, or indeed send them drifting even more hopelessly into incoherent gibbers and impotent twitches. 

    Sydney were without their best player, Milos Ninkovic, but Adrian Mierzejewski dulled that fact when he stung the palms of Vedran Janjetovic within a few minutes of the game kicking off. The Sky Blues, in need of no adjustment whatsoever to their current season trajectory, would not be accommodating opponents.

    With the Wanderers eager to foul the Sydney ball-players with late tackles, it took all of 12 minutes for Graham Arnold’s team to play around the scything studs, work the ball into the box and score. Mierzejewski, predating on a rolling rebound, spanked the ball low and hard into the goal following David Carney’s speared cross, which was parried by Janjetovic. With his second attempt on goal of the match the Pole callously punctured the ballooning aggression and energy his opponents had been building.

    Lachlan Scott retorted with a glancing header that might have beaten Andrew Redmayne had it not skidded directly into his arms. Scott was cut down by Brandon O’Neill not long after with no foul given, and Robbie Cornthwaite collected Bobo a minute later with similar disdain.

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    Things were tetchy, with both managers pacing manically around their technical areas. Mierzejewski was drawing fouls from a wide range of Wanderer players, some much softer than others. The crowd, a patchy field of red and black, were groaning with a rising bilious tone and ironically cheering when Sydney fouls were called.

    Alvaro Cejudo then gave the crowd something to cheer genuinely about, smashing a curling shot onto the bar from distance. Replays showed Redmayne had actually tipped the ball onto the frame, a wondrous save that kept his team ahead. A series of Wanderers corners followed, with Cejudo swooping in some excellent deliveries. It was a frantic surge that Sydney barely survived.

    The Sky Blues then clapped back with a dangerous move of their own as Carney headed wide from Michael Zullo’s volleyed cross. Again Mierzejewski had been the chief creator, playing in Zullo with an excellent cross-field ball. Alex Brosque nearly doubled the lead a minute later, barely missing Luke Wilkshire’s sliding cross. 

    Almost all of the Wanderers’ best work was being completed on the left wing, with Cejudo the main creative source. With 35 minutes gone Roly Bonevacia had yet to make an impression, stationed as he was alongside Josh Risdon, a full back playing as a right winger – one of the more surprising of Gombau’s starting XI adjustments.

    Carney and O’Neill were diligently sliding over and smothering the Wanderers’ right wing whenever Bonevacia or Risdon had the ball. The smoothness of Sydney’s defensive mechanics never fails to impress. 

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    This same mechanism is converted just as smoothly into its attacking function, and the build-up to Sydney’s second goal was a lesson in calm, clean offensive execution. The ball, worked around the midfield from one flank to the other, was exchanged between Mierzejewski, Josh Brillante, O’Neill and then out to Zullo.

    The Wanderers were being stretched over the pitch like skin over a drum; paper thin, ready to tear. The ball was then reworked into the centre and Bobo curled a perfect through-ball into the path a scampering Brosque, whose first touch removed the out-rushing Janjetovic from the equation. Brosque scored his first goal of the season, his team’s second of the night, five minutes from half-time. 

    The Wanderers were dazed. Bobo lashed a volley over from close range, which should have made it 3-0. Like the town drunk shambling through a high-noon gunfight, the Wanderers were tottering cluelessly close to certain death.

    Then Mierzejewski won a free kick just outside the Wanderers box, stepped up and fired in a third goal. Janjetovic’s hand made limp contact, but he could not keep the ball from spinning in. In 45 minutes, Gombau’s pivotal moment had teetered horridly into a place of dismay and fiasco. His reshuffle now looked amateurish. His team had been slaughtered, and Sydney were the butchers.

    (AAP Image/ Julian Smith)

    Gombau made no half-time changes. His team won a free kick early in the second half, right where Mierzejewski had scored from. Bonevacia struck his effort into the wall. But the Wanderers were trying, and Sydney were easing back, absorbing the pressure.

    It turned out to be the dying thrashes of a mortally wounded animal. It took less than ten second-half minutes for Sydney to rack up a fourth goal. An own goal – to add harrowing insult to grave injury – from Lachlan Scott, heading past Janjetovic while trying to flick a Mierzejewski cross away from a pack of waiting opponents. Further overkill was almost inflicted with a sweeping Sydney goal – it would have been their fifth – chalked off for a handball by the video assistant referee.

    Brendan Santalab came on for the crestfallen Scott, and Jumpei Kusukami also entered the fray. The Wanderers fans were still singing and bouncing, an admirable act of support. Kusukami immediately took on a prominent role in the Wanderers attack, prompting further narrow-eyed questions as to his exclusion from the starting XI.

    Janjetovic was forced to make two stunning saves to deny Brosque and Bobo. Bonevacia smashed a shot down the throat of Redmayne. Zullo was denied a goal again, this time from Janjetovic’s sprawling paw. The game was still remarkably open and eager in spite of the lopsided scoreline. 

    But eventually, as the contest ran into the final 20 minutes, Sydney fell back into their stolid defensive stance – a 4-4-2 – and the Wanderers tired themselves out, throwing attack after attack at it and finding it staunchly unyielding.

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    The customary Matt Simon substitute appearance occurred. The Wanderers’ energy reserves were sapped. When Brandon O’Neill converted a flowing counter-attack, plundering the fifth goal with an exquisite curled shot, ANZ Stadium was witness to the desecration of a corpse. The derby is no place for merciful tendencies, and Arnold was seen swinging his arms gleefully after the goal. 

    It’s hard to tell in the resounding aftermath of this evisceration whether Gombau’s adjustments had an effect, although it’s clear that Risdon should not be playing as a winger in the future. It bears remembering that Sydney are by far the best team in the league and may well have applied this spanking regardless of the Wanderers’ approach.

    Gombau is, though, having a hard time moulding this group of players into a team that can function in the way he wants them to – or a team that can in fact function at all. His side have now lost and failed to score in three straight matches.

    No-one expects a manager with such a definite philosophy to come in and find the current Wanderers roster – one that has been in a constant state of flux since the club’s inception – perfectly suited to his plans. But it is not, let’s be clear, too much to expect a performance better than this derby catastrophe, and Gombau will have to meet those expectations soon.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • December 10th 2017 @ 6:49am
      pete4 said | December 10th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      SFC efficiency just too much for WSW last night really could have won by a few more

      Interesting to see if Arnold tries to strengthen with another player or 2 in the January transfer window to have a real crack at the AFC Champions League this term

    • December 10th 2017 @ 7:42am
      Fadida said | December 10th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Thank god Gambau won’t get the NT job!

      • December 10th 2017 @ 9:04am
        Punter said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        No comment on SFC form apart from you know who.

        • December 10th 2017 @ 9:34am
          Kangajets said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report


          Sydney very classy last night . Enjoyed seeing them punish the wsw

      • December 10th 2017 @ 9:27am
        chris said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Gombau seems to need half a season to get his teams to be even remotely competitive. And yes, NT’s don’t have that luxury. To be fair to WSW they were missing some key players. Sydney without Ninko just means someone else steps up (Adrian).

    • December 10th 2017 @ 8:47am
      Kangajets said | December 10th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Sydney players are too good
      Every other team is playing for second .
      Season over

      How do we keep the remaining 17 rounds interesting?

      • December 10th 2017 @ 9:23am
        chris said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Just go to the games and enjoy your team. How’s that for starters?

        • December 10th 2017 @ 9:31am
          Kangajets said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report


          I am going every home game . Enjoying the jets

          I was just acknowledging how good Sydney FC are playing.

      • December 10th 2017 @ 9:24am
        shirtpants said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Sydney will no doubt win the premiership but im sure there are a few sides who’d fancy themselves in the grand final. Anything can happen grand final day.

    • December 10th 2017 @ 9:08am
      Nemesis said | December 10th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      A minor observation for the sub-editors of The Roar. The score last night was 0-5; which, if you understand football, is not the same as 5-0.

      A 5-0 score last night would mean WSW scored 5 & SydFC were nil.

    • December 10th 2017 @ 10:28am
      Onside said | December 10th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      I like Gombau as a coach. Arnold is cruising at the moment ,under no real pressure.

      Hypothetically, last nights result would be the same even if coaches swapped clubs .

      But Arnolds immediate and instinctive response to pressure if he had coached WSW,
      would have show him in a different light .

      • December 10th 2017 @ 1:07pm
        shirtpants said | December 10th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

        Give him some credit for getting the team playing how they are. He’s cruising because they’ve worked it to that level.

    • December 10th 2017 @ 1:15pm
      SrapTheCap said | December 10th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      While LowyFC has clearly been completely dominating the league for the past season and a half, I cannot believe the lack of interest in how this team could be under the salary cap ?! Marquees : Bobo & Ninkovic.The rest of the squad have to fit under $2.6 million. Wilkinson,Zullo,Wilkshire,Brillante,Brosque,Carney are all ex-Socceroos or fringe Socceroos with Brosques also being a marquee a couple of seasons ago…Bujis is a fine player, and Mierzejewski is a gem and a Polish international ! Then u have O’Neil and others who may not be on big money but wouldn’t be on chump change….last season was probably worse! Doesn’t add up… clearly they are the best team but we know why!

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