The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers were robbed of three points when they took on Melbourne City on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
An incredible performance by City keeper Thomas Sorensen and some extraordinary calls by referee Jarred Gillett turned what should have been a deserved three points for Wanderers into a 3-2 loss.
It was the battle between two of the Hyundai A-League’s in-form sides as the fourth-placed Melbourne City hosted a second-placed Wanderers seeking to extend an unbeaten run to 11 games.
And it was a breathless start to the match which saw both sides pepper the others box with plenty of early sights on goal.
Buoyed by the return of Aaron Mooy, the league’s leading scorers flew out of the blocks just seven minutes in with help from a free-kick for a hand ball which didn’t exist. Harry Novillo expertly hooked the free-kick past Andrew Redmayne.
If the Wanderers custodian was caught flat-footed for Novillo’s opener, he was back to his best to deny Bruno Fornaroli’s looping header just seconds later.
But as City propelled forward in droves Redmayne was unable to prevent the Uruguayan from netting his 12th goal of the season, latching on to Aaron Mooy’s through ball and curling an unreachable effort into the top right hand corner.
City had been rampant up until that stage but the Wanderers found just the response they needed when Mitch Nichols’ powerful shot squirmed between the fingers of Thomas Sorensen.
Only a series of fine saves from Redmayne kept a Fornaroli-inspired City at bay but Tony Popovic’s side began to grow into the game as the half wore on and might have equalised before half-time through Mark Bridge with only a last-ditch block preventing the Wanderers forward from restoring parity.
The Wanderers struggled to assert their authority in the opening stanza but grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck when play resumed for the second half.
And they made their dominance count on the hour mark when Aaron Hughes diverted substitute Romeo Castelen’s cross into his own net after a sweeping Wanderers counter attack led by Dario Vidosic.
The Dutchman wreaked havoc on the right hand side forcing Thomas Sorensen into several smart saves but squandered the chance to put the side in front after being sent one on one by Mark Bridge.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Wanderers found a route to goal but they denied in controversial fashion when referee Jared Gillet blew up for what seemed a legitimate goal to Mark Bridge, who finished past Sorensen after Dimas caught the City rearguard asleep.
Blowing the whistle to re-start play, the ball was played instantly to Mark Bridge who brilliantly chipped over the oncoming Sorensen. As Bridge turned away to celebrate, Gillet inexplicably decided that his original whistle to restart play didn’t count, disallowing the goal and denying the Red & Black a 3-2 lead that they more than deserved.
Gillet’s decision would come back to haunt the Wanderers when Harry Novillo fired in a superb late winner from outside the box.
Despite being on top for virtually the entire second half the Wanderers were unable to claw back another equaliser leaving the side very little reward from their efforts on the night and with a very sour taste in their mouth.
The Sydney Derby is up next week with tickets still available through the Derby Wander3 Pack.