How Wanderers ‘flipped the whole thing around’ to end six-year finals drought

After countless squad rebuilds, six years and five permanent managers, the Western Sydney Wanderers have finally sealed their return to the Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series.

Brandon Borrello led the charge for Marko Rudan’s men, scoring their first-half opener and setting up Amor Layouni’s 81st minute winner in a 2-1 defeat of Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

Rudan becomes the first manager to pilot the Wanderers to a top-six finish since the man in the opposite dugout, Tony Popovic, was in charge of the club.

“I’m really happy for everyone involved in the club, it’s been a gigantic effort,” Rudan said. 

“I thought we played some good stuff and really good football.”

REACTION: The ‘moment of madness’ that cost Victory dearly: ‘It’s put them out of finals contention’

Rudan’s sole gripe with the victory was the lack of support for his Wanderers side, whose achievements were watched by a crowd of 10,788 at CommBank Stadium. 

“Knowing the position we are in, we just want to secure a home final and I want to encourage our fans to fill this stadium up,” Rudan said, with his side up to fourth. 

“Maybe they (the fans) lost trust in this team … but we’ve flipped the whole thing around.” 

The feelgood factor engulfing the Wanders is in complete contrast to Popovic’s side.

Victory will begin a period of soul searching after defeat blew any realistic hope of them reaching the top six. 

After Borrello’s goal they equalised through Nishan Velupillay but Roderick Miranda’s send-off shortly afterwards was a hammer-blow for the Melburnian outfit. 

A win for Sydney FC over Perth Glory on Sunday will end Victory’s finals ambitions.

“A lot (needs to change),” Popovic said.

“The performance shows we are a good team but if you don’t put away your chances and you make mistakes then you’re going to get punished.” 

Rudan’s sole concern, meanwhile, will be a late ankle injury to playmaker Milos Ninkovic, who tested Victory goalkeeper Paul Izzo early in the first half at CommBank Stadium

The reflexes of their No. 1 kept Victory level until the final minute of first-half added time when Ninkovic played a ball over the top for Borrello.

The in-form Wanderers frontman beat three static Victory defenders to the ball and was able to poke past Izzo to give the Wanderers a 1-0 lead at the break.

Velupillay pulled one back for Victory in the 56th minute but their hopes of a comeback were quickly quelled when Miranda was dismissed three minutes later.

The defender lunged in on Borrello as he went on a darting run.

Referee Chris Beath initially booked him but as the Socceroos forward lay on the ground calling for assistance, Beath checked VAR and upgraded his card from a yellow to a red.

Victory began to sit a lot deeper as Popovic reshuffled his side to cover Miranda’s absence.

Yeni Ngbakoto flashed a header wide and at one point it looked as if the Wanderers wouldn’t do it.

But a burst from Borrello up the middle of the field created the space for Layouni’s winner which booked the Wanderers’ passage to the finals.