West Sydney Wanderers keep Wolves at bay

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In what could be described as a game of three halves, Western Sydney Wanderers’ pre-season continued Tuesday night with a hard-fought one-nil victory over Brisbane Premier League club Wolves FC at Carmichael Park.

In the end, Mark Bridge’s late penalty proved decisive for the visitors; however, each side saw a goal disallowed for offside in a tight encounter that was contested over three thirty minute periods.
The linesman’s flag plagued Tony Popovic’s Wanderers team all evening – the A-League’s latest additions caught wrong side of the last defender on nearly a dozen occasions.
Wolves FC, considered a stand-out side in the local league this season, were in the mix from the outset, with their high-pressing game – led from the front by the energetic Kado Aoci – denying the Wanderers midfield time on the ball.

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The home side sourced the first chance from a seemingly innocuous throw-in – midfielder Chris Knowles unleashing an ambitious bicycle-kick that was struck true but directed straight at Wanderers goalkeeper Jarred Tyson.

The visitor’s first genuine glimpse on goal came two minutes later when Felipe Campos gained possession in the Wolves defensive third. His cross located Labinot Haliti at the far post, but Haliti, who did well to bring the ball down under pressure, blasted his shot across the face of goal.
Aided by the slick and smooth surface, Wanderers soon settled into a percussive, if somewhat pressed, passing rhythm; their patient build-up eventually freeing Adam D’Apuzzo down the left, leading to the first disallowed goal.
Croatian import Dino Kresinger headed D’Apuzzo’s ensuing cross down for Haliti, who was lurking unmarked near the six yard box. The former Newcastle player’s solid shot found the back of the net, but was ruled out by the referee’s assistant.
Unperturbed, Wanderers continued to dominate possession for the rest of the opening period, despite failing to create any further clear chances on goal. Their only worry in defence came via a series of spurned Wolves free kicks conceded in the final third of the pitch.
After the break, Bridge replaced Kresinger and immediately provided new impetus at the top of the visitor’s formation. His angled runs combined with a slight alteration in Wanderers’ build-up that saw their young midfielder Kwabena Appiah-Kubi become more prominent.
Wanderer’s chances were more opportunity than contrivance though – the linesman’s flag and Wolves’ disciplined back four effectively quashing several promising passages, while any shots Wanderers did take were hit wide or high.
Meanwhile, Wolves remained firmly in the contest and just before the second break the proudly parochial crowd thought their side had snatched the opener – however, Alex Janovsky, who poked the ball under Tyson neatly, was adjudged offside from Ali Ahmadi’s pass, who’d done well to maintain possession in the box against some strong-armed defending.
Still locked at nil-all at the start of the final period, Wanderers sought to regain control with half a dozen substitutions and a new found fondness for lobbed balls over the Wolves high backline.

The tactical changes failed to alter the script though as Wanderers’ attacking duo of Haliti and Bridge were repeatedly flagged offside. However, Shannon Cole started to assert his influence at left back and it was the former Sydney FC man who was instrumental in earning the penalty ten minutes from time.
Taking possession from Tyson well in his own half, Cole one-two’d his way up the left sideline, combining with Trent Clulow and Shaun Robinson, before bringing the ball into the box and drawing the foul.
Bridge then stepped up and calmly converted from the penalty spot for the night’s only goal.
Wolves earned a late opportunity for an equaliser after being awarded a one final free-kick in a dangerous position, but the generally impressive Tyson managed to tip Sasa Radulovic’s shot over the bar.
Western Sydney Wanderers will return to New South Wales for their next pre-season clash against Newcastle Jets. While Wolves remain at Carmichael Park this Saturday when they play fellow BPL title-contenders Peninsula Power, both teams still a mathematical chance of claiming the title depending on other results.

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