10-man Wanderers hang on to tight victory over Adelaide

10-man Western Sydney Wanderers have hung on to a 1-0 victory over Adelaide United at CommBank Stadium, returning to the winner’s list thanks to Dylan Pierias’ first-half strike.

Pierias’ inventive goal was the difference on the scoreboard on Friday night, showcasing brilliant smarts to flick the ball over Reds keeper Joe Gauci to score the decisive goal.

The Wanderers, however, had to defend resolutely for the final minutes after Josh Brillante was sent off, but Marko Rudan’s side did just enough to hang on to all three points under enormous pressure from Adelaide’s attack.

The win ends Western Sydney’s run of two straight games without a victory, taking the Wanderers above Macarthur FC, Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar – who lost earlier in the evening – on the standings heading into the remainder of Round 8.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 15: Wanderers players huddle during the A-League Men round eight match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United at CommBank Stadium, on December 15, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Adelaide’s disappointing run of form continues, falling to a third successive defeat and their fourth loss in their last five games.

The defeat also means the Reds could fall outside the top six at the end of the round, with Melbourne City, Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners nipping at their heels.

Carl Veart responded to their loss to Brisbane last week by making a number of changes, including starting Nestory Irankunda from the bench for the first time this season and bringing in centre-back duo Nick Ansell and Alexandar Popovic after they missed the clash against Roar through injury.

Western Sydney almost fell behind early after a mistake from Lawrence Thomas provided a chance for Zach Clough, who was denied by the Wanderers keeper, with the ball falling to Luka Jovanovic – but the Reds attacker blasted over.

The Wanderers were then forced into an early change after centre-back Tom Beadling was forced off the ground through injury and replaced by Oscar Priestman, meaning Jorrit Hendrix had to slot in at centre-back alongside Marcelo.

And minutes later, the Wanderers had the lead.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 15: Dylan Pierias of the Wanderers takes a shot at goal during the A-League Men round eight match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United at CommBank Stadium, on December 15, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Hendrix drove forward from the back, before playing a lovely dinked ball into the area, which after a few headers fell at the feet of Pierias, who took a touch and flicked the ball expertly over Gauci and in off the post.

Pierias continued to cause issues, this time with his speed, breaking in behind the Reds defence, but flashed his effort just wide of the mark, instead opting to tee up an unmarked Valentino Yuel in space.

Minutes later, Gauci was called into action again, making a great save to deny Marcelo’s header.

Adelaide responded after half-time by bringing on Irankunda to try spark a fightback.

Giuseppe Bovalina had a great chance for the visitors, nodding over from a corner, while back the other way Pierias’ speed down the right created more headaches for the Adelaide defence, once more firing wide, but this time from a tight angle.

The Reds started to turn the screws as the game drew to a close, finally putting the ball in the net as Irankunda’s shot was parried into the path of Clough, who tapped home from close range, but the flag was up denying the in-form attacking midfielder an equaliser.

Minutes later, Western Sydney’s job of hanging on to all three points was made all the more difficult when Brillante caught Ryan Tunnicliffe’s lower leg with his studs up.

The Englishman was ropable after referee Alireza Feghani didn’t hand a card initially, but after VAR review, Brillante was sent off, meaning the Wanderers had to defend for the final minutes with one less player.

With time running out, Adelaide huffed and puffed.

First, Irankunda fired from long range, with his shot swerving in the air and almost catching Thomas off-guard – who could only parry the ball back into the path of Clough but his volley was blocked by Marcelo.

Then, Javi Lopez nodded Clough’s free-kick against the frame of the goal, but Wanderers were able to clear and survive a number of ensuing Reds attacks to hang on to the win.