Monday, January 29, 2024

Brilliant goalkeeping by Margush paves way for Wanderers win over Western United

Photo:  Wanderers keeper Daniel Margush (left) watches as two of his defenders resolve a dangerous situation. [PlessPix]

(A-League, North Hobart Oval, Saturday, 27 January 2024)

Western United 0

Western Sydney Wanderers 1

HT:  0-1   Att:  3,850   Ref:  A King

Western United:  Heward-Belle  -  Risdon, Imai, Vidmar (Lisolajski 75), Garuccio  -  Penha, Lustica (York 59), Thurgate (Grimaldi 80), Wales  -  Ruhs (Najjarine 59), Botic (Najdovski 80)  (Subs not used:  O’Toole, Sutton [GK])

Western Sydney Wanderers:  Margush  -  Simmons, Marcelo, Bonetig (Beading 7), Clisby  -  Brook (Cleur 69), Brillante, Moncrieff Priestman, Milanovic  -  Badolato (Younis 73), Antonsson (Pierias 73)  (Subs not used:  Ninkovic, Yuel, Harper [GK])

Photo:  Margush watches the action after one of his saves. [PlessPix] 

 Western United simply cannot score goals and that’s why they are at the bottom of the A-League standings.  After this game, they have managed to find the back of the net just 11 times in 13 outings.

That is a poor return for a side that has already won one A-League title in only six years of existence.

They should have won this game against Western Sydney Wanderers, who were third at the start and dropped to fourth despite the victory.  Western Sydney Wanderers have pedigree.  They have won the A-League title once and are the only Australian side to have won the Asian Champions League title.

It was disappointing to see just under 4,000 in attendance.  For a State that wants its own A-League team, we should be attracting more spectators to a professional game.  Seeing a game live is vastly different to watching it on television and I do hope that more people turn out next Saturday at the same superb venue (the pitch was magnificent) to watch the double header (Women’s:  Western United v Central Coast Mariners;  Men’s:  Western United v Sydney FC).

Photo:  Western United's Ben Garuccio is tackled by a Wanderers defender. [PlessPix]  

This was the second visit to Hobart by Western Sydney Wanderers.  On 30 September 2013, they lost 3-0 to Melbourne Victory in a friendly at Kingston’s Twin Ovals.

This second visit to Tasmania was more successful and resulted in them triumphing 1-0 against Western United at a windy and sometimes wet but nevertheless picturesque North Hobart Oval.

The Sydney-siders suffered an early set-back when defender Alex Bonetig was injured after just 7 minutes and had to be replaced by Tom Beading.

Photo:  Western United skipper Josh Risdon (left) tackles Wanderers' Nicolas Milanovic. [PlessPix] 

The first chance of the game fell to Western United in the 10th minute when a fierce left-footed drive by Daniel Penha was excellently saved low at the right-hand post by keeper Daniel Margush.

Wanderers should have taken the lead after 14 minutes when a cross from Oscar Moncrieff Priestman found the unmarked Marcus Antonsson, but the striker headed tamely over the bar.

Three minutes later, Western United had a glorious chance.  Lachlan Wales made ground down the left and caused confusion and panic in the penalty area with a low cross, but Margush saved the day when he was able to scoop up the loose ball and snuff out the danger.

In the 2st minute, an error in midfield gifted possession to Western United on the right and Michael Ruhs advanced on goal.  With only the keep to beat, Margush blocked the powerful shot to deny what probably should have been a goal.

Photo:  Western United James York (right) gets a pass away on his debut for the club. [PlessPix] 

On the half-hour came the miss of the match as far as Western United were concerned.  Penha released Noah Botic down the right and his low cross across the goalmouth found the unmarked Ruhs just outside the six-yard box and he somehow managed to lift the ball over an open goal and over the bar for a goalkick.

Wanderers had been living dangerously despite dominating possession and building up from the back through intelligent play by captain Marcelo and left-back Jake Clisby.

They were rewarded in the 35th minute when an attack down the left by the excellent Nicolas Milanovic caused panic in the Western United defence.  They were caught wrong footed by Milanovic’s low cross, which found Antonsson, who side-footed the ball back into the path of Lachlan Brook, who struck a sweet left-footed shot into the net from just inside the box to give Wanderers a 1-0 lead at the interval.

Photo:  Western United's Ben Garuccio (right) keeps a close eye on Wanderers' Marcus Younis. [PlessPix] 

Ten minutes into the second half, Wanderers almost increased their lead when a deep cross from the right by Aidan Simmons found Antonsson, whose header flashed centimetres wide of the far right-hand post with keeper Tom Heward-Belle at full stretch but beaten.

In the 62nd minute, Wanderers’ Milanovic made a penetrating run through the midfield and released Brook on the left, but a timely intervention by Kane Vidmar blocked the shot and denied Brook an almost certain second goal.

In the 66th minute, Wanderers shot themselves in the foot when a terrible and unnecessary tackle by Simmons on Vidmar in midfield saw the Wanderers defender receive a red card.

Photo:  Wanderers coach Marco Rudan prowls his technical area. [PlessPix]

Photo:  Marco Rudan urges the Wanderers to greater effort. [PlessPix] 

The extra man emboldened Western United and had Wanderers coach Marco Rudan animated in the technical area for the next 25 minutes of the game as he urged his players to greater heights, and especially in their defensive efforts.

Goalkeeper Margush deserves great credit for the win.  He saved brilliantly from Botic and Garuccio in the latter stages to keep the 1-0 lead intact

As an aside, Garuccio spent a couple of seasons with Scottish club Heart of Midlothian in Edinburgh.  Hearts actually played Tasmania at North Hobart Oval in 1959 and won 10-0.  I bet not many current Hearts fans or players know that.  Garuccio, understandably, was surprised, too.

Photo:  Western United's Ben Garuccio on the attack. [PlessPix]

Photo:  Former A-League superstar with Sydney FC, Milos Ninkovic, was not used by Wanderers on Saturday but it was great to see him congratulating his team-mates on the win after the final whistle. [PlessPix] 

Friday, January 26, 2024

Western United train at North Hobart Oval prior to Saturday's game

Photo:  Penalty practice at North Hobart Oval today. [PlessPix] 

Western United conducted a light training session at North Hobart Oval this afternoon after arriving in Hobart at lunch time.

They will play an A-League match against Western Sydney Wanderers at North Hobart tomorrow at 5pm.

Dozens of youngsters watched the session and obtained player autographs later.

Photo:  Western United's Ben Garuccio has also played for Melbourne City, Adelaide United and Heart of Midlothian. [PlessPix] 

Western United’s 28-year-old defender, Ben Garuccio, will play at this venue for the first time as he missed last season’s game against Sydney FC.

He was impressed with the venue and is looking forward to tomorrow’s game.

“Yeah, it’s [the venue] beautiful,” Garuccio said.

“The pitch is really good.  It was nice and wet. They watered it before the session, the ball was moving well.  So looking forward to tomorrow.”

Western United are last on the A-League standings while Western Sydney Wanderers are third, but Garuccio is not fazed.

“I see it as every game is winnable in this league, especially this year with how tight the competition is, so there’s no reason why we can’t get three points.” Garuccio said.

Garuccio has played overseas, including with Scottish club Heart of Midlothian.

This has enabled him to make a comparison of overseas football and the A-League.

“I think the A-League’s very good,” he said.

“Probably the most disappointing part is the way the following has sort of gone a little bit downhill in recent years.

“I’m a massive advocate for the league.  I can’t see why it’s not supported like it is overseas in European countries.  I think A-League’s really, really good quality.”

The lack of promotion and relegation in the A-League is unusual in terms of world football generally and Aussies abroad find overseas leagues are more cut-throat than at home.

“I think the competitive nature that maybe us Aussies aren’t accustomed to with the way the league is set up here with no promotion or relegation.” Garuccio said.

“I think really seeing that ruthlessness of fans over there;  they won’t accept you being at the bottom of the table, which is something that probably a lot of Aussies actually struggle with.

“I definitely struggled with it, I’m not afraid to say, and I think a lot of Aussies do.  And that’s why we see a lot of them coming back.

“We’re not accustomed to that here, [and] we’re not used to it.

“And then when you go over, it’s sometimes a big shock.

“There’s a lot more pressure on the line when you’re playing for a big club [because] you may be on the verge of getting relegated.”

Photo:  Coach John Aloisi (left) with his coaching staff. [PlessPix] 

Garuccio supports Tasmania having an A-League team.

“I think as much growth for this league is going to be better,” he said.

“I would love to see a league one day with 20 teams and you’re playing 38 games a season like overseas.

“For me, we need more games.  It used to be a 27-game league, now it’s a 26-game league.

“I don’t really understand with more teams in the league how there can be less games.

“I would like to play more games and have it a little bit more traditional.  So I’m open [to Tasmania having a team].”

Photo:  Players signing autographs for youngsters after the training session. [PlessPix]


Photo:  John Aloisi signs a football for a young fan. [PlessPix]

Photo:  Defender Tomoki Imai, 33, signing autographs. [PlessPix]