ACL: Wanderers stagnant in Seoul

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After a tedious 90 minutes of football, the AFC Champions League semi-final between the Western Sydney Wanderers and FC Seoul concluded with a 0-0 draw, placing an immense amount of pressure on the Wanderers to deliver the goods in the second leg.

Defensively the Wanderers were pressing up a lot more than usual consequently enabling the squad to dominate possession a lot earlier in the game in comparison to FC Seoul, who had a sleepy start.

Despite this, FC Seoul were able to consistently weave their way through the stereotypical rock-solid Wanderers defence, which left Wanderers Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Brendan Hamill and Goal-Keeper Ante Covic to continuously prevent the squad from conceding a goal.

The first half saw a variety of cheap turnovers due to minor defensive mistakes by the Western Sydney team that enabled FC Seoul to head into enemy territory through Sergio Escuerdo leading quick counter attacks that left the opposition chasing after their feet.

The most explicit challenges on the Wanderers defence were down the right-hand side where Daniel Mullen was stationed, which led a variety of opportunities for FC Seoul to change the current outcome of the game.

Considering the enormity of the stadium, which has full capacity near the 66,000 mark, it was only filled to about 10%, with roughly 30 Western Sydney Wanderers supporters making the trip up to South Korea to support their beloved team.

The second half saw substitutions at Seoul World Cup Stadium with Park Hee Seong being replaced by Everton Santos and Lee Woonghee coming off for Kang Seung Jo for FC Seoul.

The Wanderers during the second half had vast improvements especially by Labinot Haliti whom by holding the ball up was able to slow the game down and perhaps give his squad the opportunity to think before releasing the ball too soon. This was certainly missing from the first half.

Poljak made a variety of long-range shots yet FC Seoul were fast to prevent these attempts and gain control of the ball.

Fears about injury during this intense battle between the two squads surfaced not only through the poor condition of the pitch, but also with Wanderer Iacopo La Rocca being stretchered off (later to walk casually back onto the field) and cramps which impacted both sides of the field.

Exhaustion was clearly taking its toll on the Wanderers who, due to being in their preseason, have played much less game time in comparison to the South Korean team, who domestically are on an unbeaten run of seven games as of last Saturday.

Changes were made in the final seven minutes of the game by the Western Sydney Wanderers with Kwabena Appiah being replaced by Jason Trifiro, Vitor Saba by Jaushua Sotirio and Daniel Mullen by Daniel Alessi.

There were many opportunities for the Wanderers in these final moments to secure that crucial away goal, yet none of them were able to make enough of an impact to change the final outcome of the match.

The question after this indifferent 0-0 draw is where to for the Wanderers from here? The next time these two clubs will meet is October 1st and the final score will definitely have to be different from tonight’s.

With the Wanderers executing a variety of unnecessary errors that more than likely attributed to the final result, an improvement in the lack of communication between the newly formed squad or the substitution of physically exhausted players earlier in the game, could have perhaps prevented these forced errors from occurring ultimately changing the final outcome of tonight’s match.

The Western Sydney Wanderers will certainly have to do something differently in order to have success in the home leg in the semi-final of the AFC Champions League.

If there has been anything that has certainly come from this match, it is that the anticipation for FC Seoul and the Western Sydney Wanderers next meeting will be the most exciting thing on everyone’s football calendar.

Western Sydney Wanderers starting XI: Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), Labinot HALITI, Mateo POLJAK, Vitor SABA, Kwabena APPIAH, Brendan HAMILL, Iacopo LA ROCCA, Mark BRIDGE, Daniel MULLEN, Antony GOLEC and Ante COVIC (GK).

Substitutes: Yianni PERKATIS, Dean BOUZANIS, Jason TRIFIRO, Jaushua SOTIRIO, Alusine FOFANAH, Daniel ALESSI.

FC Seoul starting XI: Kim JIN KYU (C), Lee WONGHEE, Kim JU YOUNG, Cha DU RI, Sergio ESCUDERO, Go YOHAN, Park HEESEONG, Koh MYONGJIN, Ko KWANG MIN, Lee SANGHYEOB and Yu SANGHUN (GK).

Substitutes: Kim YONG DAE, Choi HYO JIN, EVERTON Leandro Dos Santos Pinto, MOLINA Uribe, Kang SEUNG JO, Yun JUTAE, Kim NAMCHUN.

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Jessica Csaszar
Jessica joined the team for 2014 covering Western Sydney Wanderers in the Westfield W-League and Hyundai A-League.

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