The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers will finish 2015 on top of the table after a 2-0 victory over Newcastle Jets extended their undefeated streak to nine matches, eight of which have been wins.
A debut goal for Alberto and Mark Bridge’s fifth goal in as many games extended the Red & Black’s lead over Brisbane Roar at the top of the table to five points.
If the Wanderers had expected their unfancied visitors to arrive at Pirtek Stadium to park the bus, they were pleasantly surprised to see Scott Miller’s side cast aside their defensive shackles and play with a significant amount of freedom, resulting in a free-flowing first half.
The Jets have found goals few and far between this season nearly found themselves ahead within the opening minute when Andrew Redmayne tipped Nigel Boogard’s header over the bar.
The Wanderers responded when Romeo Castelen’s shot was deflected agonisingly wide of the bar after some neat build up play before Mitch Nichols went close from long range.
The return of Dimas, rested in the Wanderers’ 2-2 draw at Perth Glory the previous Saturday, was proving instrumental as the side ramped up the intensity during the early stages.
The Spaniard’s raking ball found a surging Scott Jamieson down the left in one of many trademark forays with the Newcastle rear-guard struggling to contend with both the flying fullback and the trickery of Romeo Castelen on the opposite flank.
David Carney has been a superb outlet in attack for the Jets this season and he was pulling the strings again tonight, with Ryan Kitto nearly the beneficiary of Carney through ball denied by Andrew Redmayne who did well to smother the danger.
Newcastle were playing intelligently with their compact banks of four denying the Wanderers the opportunity to create an avenue to goal and they could have snatched an unlikely lead before half-time if it wasn’t for Scott Neville’s last-ditch challenge on Milos Trifunovic.
The former Novocastrian’s heroics would prove to be a crucial point in the match with Alberto nodding Jamieson’s free-kick past Mark Birighitti only moments later, ensuring the Wanderers took a half-time lead for just the second time this season.
Alberto’s first goal for club just before the interval seemed to scupper the Jets game plan, who emerged for the second-half early but unable to strike up the incision and momentum from their valiant effort in the first period.
The second half failed to live up to the end-to-end action of the first, with the Jets happy to allow the Wanderers the lion’s share of possession and attempt to make the most of limited opportunities on the counter attack.
It was a strategy that proved fatal when Mark Bridge, a grand final winner with the Newcastle club, struck twenty minutes from full-time.
The strike was Bridge’s fifth in as many games and none have been as well taken, with the Wanderers’ all-time leading scorer executing a wonderful turn and finish in a crowded penalty area to send the ball into the bottom corner with Birighitti going the other way.
The Wanderers return to Pirtek Stadium on New Year’s Day with a match against Adelaide United. Kick-off is at 7:40 and tickets are available here.