Match Preview: Wanderers v Western United

The Western Sydney Wanderers will look to record their first win of the season at their second attempt when they host Western United at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

In their opening match of the season – also taking place at home – the Red & Black were frustrated by a compact Wellington Phoenix defence, and some fine saves from Alex Paulsen ensured the Wanderers were forced to share the points after a 0-0 stalemate.

The Wanderers had more possession and were dominant in the shot statistics, taking 16 to Wellington’s five, with Nicolas Milanovic creating several good opportunities after he was given the chance to start the match.

But the Wanderers couldn’t find a way through, and on a hot afternoon in Parramatta, the game eventually petered out as players from both sides succumbed to cramp.

Whilst there was frustration the side couldn’t take the three points, there were positives to take from the performance, including the influence of Milanovic on the game, as well as the Wanderers’ defence looking fairly comfortable, with captain Marcelo standing out once again.

Jorrit Hendrix, the Dutch midfielder who recently joined the club, also showed flashes of class and quality, and it is hoped he can build on his first performance in Wanderers colours.

There is no doubt the side will need to find their cutting edge against a Western United side fresh off a surprise first round win over last season’s premiers Melbourne City.

After a goalless first half, the game exploded into life after the hour mark as Lachie Wales and Tolgay Arslan traded goals within two minutes of each other to leave the game finely balanced at 1-1, but a handball penalty 10 minutes from time gave Noah Botic the chance to secure an away victory, and he did just that by converting past Jamie Young.

There has been much personnel change at United in the offseason, with Young, Aleksander Prijovic and Alessandro Diamanti amongst the departures, but new recruit Daniel Penha was at his exciting best on his return to the league, and he could be crucial if Western United are to improve on a seventh placed finish last season.

The team also had the worst defence in the league last season, a significant change from the season before where their solid backline helped them to an upset Grand Final win.

Despite this, their two encounters against the Wanderers were both tight affairs, with each match ending 1-0.

Western United were able to secure first blood when the sides met in December, as Prijovic’s early header was enough to grab victory at AAMI Park, before the Wanderers returned the favour in February as a Yeni Ngbakoto goal midway through the first half saw the Wanderers claim an important win at home.

Overall, Western United narrowly lead the head-to-head battle between the clubs, having won five games compared to the Wanderers three wins, with the Wanderers needing to wait until the fourth match between the sides to claim a victory.

However the Wanderers have claimed the largest win between the sides so far when they demolished their opponents 5-0 in May 2021 in Parramatta.

The Wanderers were the second best team at home last season, winning eight times and only losing three games in the regular season, though Western United’s form on the road was admirable, finishing with five wins and six losses leaving them in the top half of the league in terms of points gained away from home.

The Wanderers can once again expect to have more of the ball against a United side who at their best absorb the pressure then strike quickly on the break; Marko Rudan will hope the likes of Brandon Borrello and Marcus Antonsson can find the form that saw them impress in the Australia Cup earlier this year.