Wanderers stun Adelaide with late win

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A sensational second-half cameo from Brendon Santalab has seen Western Sydney Wanderers come from behind to snatch an unlikely 2-1 win over reigning champions Adelaide in their Grand Final rematch at Coopers Stadium.

The super-sub came off the bench midway through the second stanza to cancel out Henrique’s first-half opener and netted the winner in injury time to hand Tony Popovic’s side their first win of the season and a sweet side of revenge for their 3-1 defeat at the hand of Guillermo Amor’s men in last season’s final.

But Popovic’s outfit benefited from a hefty slice of fortune with Santalab somehow escaping retribution for a hugely cynical sliding challenge on Adelaide’s James Holland moments before the winner.

It was another reason for a beaten Adelaide side to feel aggrieved – the Reds had dominated the match in large spells and spurned a succession of good chances to double their lead in the second half with the Wanderers still looking vulnerable from last weekend’s 4-0 derby hammering to Sydney.

In what was a repeat scoreline of last season’s second-round stalemate in the City of Churches, the Wanderers came closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening skirmishes before Henrique’s opener on the cusp of half-time.

A perennial threat again to follow up an exquisite Sydney Derby showing, Jumpei Kusukami was the source of everything good about the Wanderers once again. The Japanese livewire set up a chance for Kerem Bulut after chesting down Clisby’s cross inside the area with the forward unable to bundle the ball home, before flashing a long range effort of his own over the crossbar minutes later.

But after a shaky opening twenty minutes, the momentum and best chances of the half fell the way of Adelaide. With Reds winger Cirio withdrawn through injury early on, substitute Ryan Kitto enjoyed a fine first half down the right wing and created a golden chance for Henrique following a superb cutback from the byline but the forward spooned his first-time effort over the bar.

But the former Roar talisman redeemed himself on the cusp of half-time when he sweeped home an opportunity of replica making, with Kitto delivering another lovely cutback from the right and Henrique turning home his first goal in Adelaide colours from close range.

Amor’s side had a golden chance to double the lead minutes into the second half when Kitto pounced on a slip from Aspropotamitis but a wayward finish from Jesse Makarounas let the Wanderers, who began the second stanza poorly, off the hook.

It was a miss the Reds would regret. With his charges on the back foot, Tony Popovic needed no further delay in introducing both Nicolas Martinez and Brendon Santalab from the bench and the changes breathed new life into the Wanderers attack immediately.

Robbie Cornthwaite was denied a goal on his return to Coopers Stadium when his downward header was blocked on the line by Mitch Nichols, while Andrew Redmayne’s smothering save denied Kitto at the other end.

Unsurprisingly, the Wanderers substitutes played crucial roles in the equalizing goal midway through the second half – with Martinez digging his side out of what appeared a dead end deep inside their own half, and Santalab applying the finishing touch to Mitch Nichols’ cross sixty meters downfield.

It was a sensational counter attacking goal from the Wanderers, one that punished Adelaide for their profligacy, and the momentum was now firmly with Popovic’s side – who spurned another chance when Aspropotamitis hooked Cornthwaites knock down over the bar.

Santalab’s dangerous sliding challenge on Holland looked like it would be the final flashpoint in a fiery encounter,  but there would be one final twist in favour of the Red and Black in stoppage time. With the Wanderers building pressure outside the Reds’ penalty area Jumpei unlocked the Adelaide defence with a piercing through ball to Mitch Nichols who saw his cutback slammed home by Santalab.

Adelaide United 1 (Henrique 43′)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Santalab 66′, Santalab 90+2′)

Coopers Stadium, Adelaide

Referee: Shaun Evans
Assistant Referees: Matthew Cream & Paul Cetrangolo
Fourth Official: Rick Schneider

Adelaide United
1. GALEKOVIC Eugene, 3. LA ROCCA Iacopo, 4. MCGOWAN Dylan, 7. HENRIQUE, 8. ISAIAS, 9. GUARDIOLA Sergi, 11. CIRIO, 16. MAKAROUNAS Jesse, 19. GARUCCIO Ben, 21. ELRICH Tarek, 25. HOLLAND James
Substitutes: 15. WARLAND Ben, 18. MCGREE Riley, 20. HALL John, 22. KITTO Ryan, 24. O’DOHERTY Jordan

Western Sydney Wanderers
1. REDMAYNE Andrew, 3. CLISBY Jack, 18. CORNTHWAITE Robert, 22. ASPROPOTAMITIS Jonathan, 12. NEVILLE Scott, 8. DIMAS, 15. BACCUS Kearyn, 6. NICHOLS Mitch, 7. LUSTICA Steven, 14. JUMPEI, 14. BULUT Kerem
Substitutes: 1. TYSON Jerrad, 5. HAMILL Brendan, 13. PINATARES Bruno, 10. MARTINEZ Nicolas, 11. SANTALAB Brendan

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