Statement performance ‘manifested’ by Wanderers young gun to ‘prove a point’ to former side

WATCH: Wanderers score FIVE first-half goals in domination of Western United

Five first-half goals to Western Sydney Wanderers sent Marko Rudan’s side on the path to a comprehensive win over Western United at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

No club has scored more than five first-half goals in a single Isuzu UTE A-League game – and the home side equalled the all-time record in Wanderland, with both Nicolas Milanovic and Lachlan Brook bagging two apiece in a scintillating opening 45 minutes.

The 5-0 advantage was the biggest taken to half-time in any game in Isuzu UTE A-League history.

Marcelo added the fifth in a first-half rout, in which the visitors were all at sea and off the pace from beginning to end. Western managed to stem the bleeding in the second half as the score remained at 5-0 in Western Sydney’s favour until full-time.

The action began with Brook’s first A-Leagues goal for the Wanderers. The former Adelaide United forward found the top corner with a long-range strike which keeper Thomas Heward-Belle had no chance of saving as it whipped into the back of the net.

It took just six minutes for Brook to find his first league goal for the Wanderers on his starting debut – and soon after, the 22-year-old had a second. Brook gathered the loose ball after Angus Thurgate’s attempted intervention, poked the ball through the legs of Jacob Tratt and tucked the ball into the bottom-left corner with the help of a deflection off Tomoki Imai.

Milanovic made it 3-0 in the 34th minute with a header which Western keeper Heward-Belle failed to repel, despite getting his left glove to the glancing effort off a well-placed Jack Clisby cross.

Clisby was given time and space on the left wing to take possession in the final third, look up, find his target and deliver.

Five minutes later it went from bad to worse for Western as Marcelo was allowed to rise unchallenged to meet a Jorrit Hendrix corner to score Western Sydney’s fourth. The towering leap from the Wanderers captain exposed a collective lack of effort from the visitors to contain the home side’s threat from the set piece.

Hendrix had taken corner duties off Josh Brillante in the first half, and after supplying the assist to Marcelo, he showed his class once again with a swinging delivery to the front post on the cusp of half-time which Brandon Borrello headed onward to the back post for Milanovic to tuck home from close range.

A total of 48 first-half minutes had elapsed, and the Wanderers had five – the most of any team in any first-half in Isuzu UTE A-League history.

Neither side would add to the scoresheet in the second stanza as United dug deep to stem the bleeding, as the Wanderers wrapped up a 5-0 win at CommBank Stadium, confirming their second clean sheet in as many games to start the season.

The talking point

Everything the Wanderers touched turned to goals in the first half, with Brook and Milanovic running riot at CommBank Stadium.

The 5-0 half-time scoreline was the largest ever recorded at the midway point of an Isuzu UTE A-League game – but the Wanderers couldn’t eclipse the all-time record for most goals scored in a first half – their five-goal haul is the equal-highest registered in the league’s history. 

But for Western United, it was a harsh reality check after an impressive 2-1 win over Melbourne City in Round 1. Head coach John Aloisi lamented his side’s glaring deficiencies in a number of key areas against the Wanderers that contributed to the nightmare they found themselves in at the break.

“We didn’t start well,” he told Paramount+ post-game. “We were off on our press. We were too stretched and they took advantage of that in the first half, every time they went forward, you know, they punished us.

“It was a difficult situation at half time because a lot of us, including me, had never been in a situation like that to be 5-0 down at half time.

“But the reaction from the players was positive, if you want to take anything positive out of tonight (it was) that the second half, we created a number of opportunities and we restricted them. Our, our press was better. We have to move forward from that. We’re not happy about the result, not happy about the first half, but we have to move forward now, 

“We still need to learn from it. We need to learn from our first half and we know that if you’re off in this league, you can get punished by good players.”

The star

As far as starting league debuts go, you can’t get much better than what Lachlan Brook served up at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

A freakish opening goal set the tone for a superb performance by the former Adelaide United talent, who is relishing life back in Australia after a turbulent spell in his young career. 

Brook moved abroad to Brentford in England from Adelaide before a loan move back to the Reds two seasons ago. Ahead of the 2023-24 campaign, Brook decided to seek a permanent move home – and it was his conversations with Wanderers boss Marko Rudan that gave him the confidence he was making the right move in Western Sydney.

“I’m ecstatic… I’m honestly over the moon,” Brook told Paramount+.

“I wanted to come home, I wanted to start enjoying football. A lot of things off the pitch sometimes can affect your football but when you’re happy all the way through, it translates onto the pitch.

“I came back on loan to Adelaide (in 2021). I wasn’t playing badly, I was playing games but the goals and assists were missing. 

“When the boss (Rudan) said he was interested, he said he really wanted to work on that side of the game. That was the biggest thing for me. When he said that… it was the biggest part of taking my game to the next level.”

“We’ve worked really hard on goal setting and team togetherness,” Brook added. “We were really disappointed with last week (0-0 draw v Wellington), we thought we definitely should have won the game, so tonight was definitely about putting our mark on the league and showing we mean business and we want to win everything.”

What they said

Nicolas Milanovic joined Brook in adding two goals to the scoreboard before the break – and to the 21-year-old former Western United youngster, nothing could have felt sweeter than doing so against his former side.

Milanovic began his professional career in green and black, originally on a scholarship contract signed in July 2020. Two-and-a-half years later, Milanovic made the switch to the Wanderers – his hometown club he had first represented in 2015 as an academy player.

After the Wanderers’ 5-0 win over United, Milanovic told Paramount+ it was the type of performance he’d envisaged putting in against his old club, to show them what they were missing.

“It’s what I was manifesting all day, to be honest,” he said.

“I grew up with these boys, I was bred into the A-League with these boys. I just wanted to prove a point that I’m good enough for this league.

“The improvement was the fight. The fight and unity we showed together. This week in training especially, it wasn’t so much technical and tactical, it was more to show a hunger to score goals – and I think we showed that tonight.”