Analysis: Slow starts threatening to derail Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers’ poor starts are threatening to undo their strong Hyundai A-League season thus far.

Many critics will focus on the Wanderers’ two-year derby hoodoo after Shane Smeltz’s late strike gave Sydney FC a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.

But Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic should be more concerned about how his team are starting games, with all four of the Wanderers’ defeats in 2015-16 coming after they conceded the first goal.

The Wanderers have shipped eight goals in the opening half-hour of matches this term – only Central Coast Mariners (10) and Perth Glory (9) are worse in that period.

Plus, the Red-and-Blacks sit behind five other clubs in terms of scoring in the first 30 minutes.

By contrast, in the final half-hour of games, no team has scored more goals than the Wanderers (12) or conceded fewer (4).

At Pirtek Stadium and in front of a record home crowd of 19,627, Western Sydney completely dominated the initial moments of the contest with the Sky Blues sitting deep in defence.

In the eighth minute, Dario Vidosic produced a great turn to get free in the box but dragged his shot wide, while Romeo Castelen hit the side netting 10 minutes later.


The hosts had almost 70 per cent possession in the opening 20 minutes and would maintain that ratio for the majority of the match.


But in the 22nd minute, Popovic’s men conceded the first goal of the game for the seventh time in this campaign.



Mark Bridge watches on after Shane Smeltz put Sydney FC 2-1 up in the 90th minute.


Seb Ryall’s centring header from Chris Naumoff’s deep corner was nodded into the net by Jacques Faty, with Wanderers goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne stranded.


Again Popovic will no doubt point to an impressive overall performance from Western Sydney – as he did after last week’s 3-2 loss to Melbourne City.


But that result also saw the Wanderers start slowly, as City surged to a 2-0 lead after 23 minutes and then held on as the visitors dominated the second half at AAMI Park.


There were positives for Popovic, however, as Graham Arnold’s Sydney notched their third straight derby triumph, and made it six matches without a win in this fixture for the Wanderers.


Vidosic’s equaliser will hopefully spark an improvement in form from the Socceroos midfielder, as Popovic continues to tweak his forward quartet in an effort to find the best combination.


In the first half, Vidosic failed to convert a number of chances but when Castelen teed him up on the left-hand side of the box in the 58th minute, the 28-year-old brilliantly curled his shot inside the far post.


The goal was just Vidosic’s second in 2015-16 from 15 appearances.



Dario Vidsosic celebrates after scoring against Sydney FC.


But the concern for Popovic is that after 10-game unbeaten run ended last week, two straight defeats have seen Western Sydney get dragged back into a proper title scrap.


Ahead of the other matches this weekend; the Wanderers sit a point behind leaders Brisbane Roar (28), who are only four points ahead of fifth-placed Melbourne Victory.