It just wasn’t meant to be in this year’s Westfield FFA Cup as Perth Glory triumphed over the Wanderers in a heartbreaking penalty shootout in last night’s Quarter Final match at Dorrien Gardens.
Here’s what we can take away from the game.
Penalties prove to be our poison
Last night marked the second time that the Wanderers have taken part in a penalty shootout in their short history.
Unfortunately the result mirrored that of 2014’s Club World Cup shootout against ES Setif, as again we came unstuck at the 12-yard spot.
Federico Piovaccari, who seemed to be coming into form after a fine headed goal last week against APIA, missed his second penalty this pre-season as he skewed his take wide with the outside of his boot, while the normally reliable Scott Jamieson sent his take shot agonisingly over the bar.
Although new signing Dario Vidosic and the returning Andreu converted their penalties with relative aplomb, it now means that (including last night’s shoot-out) we’ve missed four out of the seven spot-kicks we’ve attempted this pre-season.
As the Hyundai A-League season draws ever closer, Tony Popovic will no doubt be looking for one his players to step up and assume the ever-important role of regular penalty taker.
Nichols bright, Andreu takes charge
He might not have set the game completely alight but it was certainly pleasing to see Mitch Nichols heavily involved in our front-third game.
Although he’s been operating in the hole, Nichols isn’t your traditional string-pulling number 10, as he prefers to work off and with those around him rather than creating on his own.
He did this to good effect last night, linking well with Castelen and Piovaccari in particular, and always making himself available to Dimas and Jacob Pepper behind him.
And it was Nichols himself who was able to break the 0-0 deadlock, the former Glory man darting to the byline to cut back to Dimas for a simple tap-in.
While Nichols faded out of the game as Glory wrestled their way on top, it was another off-season acquisition that took up the mantle.
Spanish midfielder Andreu entered the fray after 77 minutes and immediately showed what he’ll bring to the team this season, displaying a fine range of short and long passing.
The blue-eyed man from Barcelona has a certain air of calm about his play that could potentially provide the ying to the more combative yang of compatriot Dimas.
Last night was Andreu’s first bit of action since injuring his leg in the Round of 32 game against Brisbane so it remains to be seen if he’ll be match-ready to take the field on October 8.
Fingers crossed he is.
120 minutes good for the legs
Historically, the Wanderers have prided themselves on their ability to outlast opposition.
The heat of the Australian summer can be a cruel mistress and often it’s fitness and physicality that can separate two teams on an A-League day.
Although the Wanderers were noticeably running out of steam towards the end of the extra-time period, Tony Popovic will be glad that his players were able to register some additional minutes under their belts, particularly those who were returning from injury.
With more than a week to prepare for next Thursday’s visit of Brisbane, the Red & Black should be optimally rested, without feeling the itch of needing some more time on the paddock.
The Wanderers also made it through the 120 minutes unscathed, and despite losing Brendon Santalab in the warm-up, were able to officially welcome back Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Andreu from injury, while marquee man Vidosic made his debut sooner than expected.
With a number of starting positions still up for grabs, Popovic is sure to have some interesting selection dilemmas ahead of the Brisbane game as his players press their claims in training this week.
A-League, you have our attention
If there’s one salient positive that you can take away from getting knocked out of a cup, it’s that you’re able to focus entirely on the league.
For the past couple of seasons, juggling both the grueling schedule of the Asian Champions League together with that of the Hyundai A-League has proven to be more than a tricky task for the Wanderers.
With no more Westfield FFA Cup on our plate, it allows for full focus on the domestic league, something we haven’t experienced since year one – where we of course stormed to the premiership.
A healthy start is crucial to the success of a Hyundai A-League season and attention will now turn to toppling the Roar in next Thursday’s season opener at Pirtek Stadium.
The Roar are in the same Westfield FFA Cup-less boat after we knocked them out back in August and Wanderers faithful will be hoping it’s a case of more of the same come October 8.