The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers have put themselves well and truly into the premiership race after a comfortable 4-1 win over Central Coast Mariners.
A Brendon Santalab’s brace and goals to Romeo Castelen and Mitch Nichols earned the Red & Black the three points and moved them to the top of table though Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United are still yet to play this round.
Tony Popovic rallied his troops prior to the match, asking to lift their focus for the penultimate fixture of the season after a disappointing finish to last week’s match against Victory.
And the team seemed to heed his message as they piled on the pressure from the off, playing with an intensity and fluency lacking in recent weeks.
It wasn’t long before they were ahead. After a flurry of early activity in the Mariners’ box, Kearyn Baccus teed up Romeo Castelen outside the penalty area for the Dutchman to fire past Mariners debutant Adam Pearce.
But Tony Walmsey’s team had other ideas and shocked the home crowd in a rare venture forward when Luis Garcia restored parity, pouncing on Mitch Austin’s cross after the Wanderers surrendered possession deep in their own half.
The visitors were unable to preserve parity for long though and found themselves behind when Brendon Santalab notched his seventh goal of the season, burying the rebound after Castelen bundled through the Mariners defence.
It was the first time the Red & Black had scored twice in the first half since their 4-1 demolition of Brisbane Roar in March of the 2014/15 campaign.
There was no let off for the Mariners when the second half began with the Wanderers exiting the blocks as quickly in the second as they did in the first.
Santalab was once again the beneficiary of the home side’s dominance, gleefully heading home Scott Neville’s delightful cross at the back post for his second of the evening.
The Wanderers created a host of opportunities late on and eventually snared a fourth when Mitch Nichols slammed home his first goal in seven matches following a mazy run from Mark Bridge.
Dependant on results, it looks like the Premiership will come down to the final round with the Red & Black still able to finish anywhere from first to fifth with only one match remaining.
That game is against Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, live on Fox Sports 505 from 3pm Sunday.