The Wanderers are approaching the finish line as one of the league’s hottest teams.
As all footballers will tell you, the success of any game cannot be judged until the final whistle blows and the same can be said when it comes to the Wanderers’ fifth season in the Hyundai A-League.
Although a campaign not without it’s struggles, the Red & Black are coming good at the right time and are giving themselves a great chance to rectify early stumbles in the added time that is finals football.
On the back of a Grand Final appearance last season and another squad reshuffle, it was always going to be a tough start for Western Sydney as Tony Popovic attempted to find a winning hand once again.
A humbling loss in the Sydney Derby to usher in the season certainly got things off to a shaky start but future results against the Sky Blues would come to reflect how the Red & Black have found their feet since.
After a bruising beginning to the season, the Wanderers showed they were capable of cutting it with teams higher up the ladder in the second Sydney Derby of the season as they gave as good as they got in a tense goalless draw with the league leaders in Round 15.
Just five games later and on the back of a frustrating loss to Central Coast Mariners, Western Sydney showed they weren’t to be written off as they broke a three-year winless streak against the Sky Blues.
In a dramatic encounter, a super Brendon Santalab strike handed Sydney FC their one and only loss of the Hyundai A-League season to date; The Invincibles a tag the Red & Black clearly didn’t want their fierce rivals to have.
Knowing they could beat anyone after that result, the Wanderers, despite another minor stutter as they adjusted to life back in the Asian Champions League, have now won four games in a row scoring three goals in each of those games.
Starting with a crucial 3-2 away win in the Champions League against FC Seoul, the Wanderers have strung some significant momentum together as they aim to cement a spot in the finals and chase what looked to be an unlikely home final.
Back-to-back 3-1 wins against Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City laid the groundwork for last week’s 3-0 triumph over an out-of-sorts Newcastle Jets.
Sitting fifth heading into Friday’s match, Western Sydney are within touching distance of fourth which would guarantee a home final in week one.
But before they can entertain that possibility, the Red & Black face a fitting test against second-placed Melbourne Victory who, unlike Sydney FC, have retained the upper hand over the Wanderers so far this season.
The Victory have proved too strong in both games running out 3-0 winners each time. In general, the Red & Black have certainly struggled against the Victorians, winning just one of their last ten matches.
Yet despite that history, Western Sydney come into this game much higher on confidence than their opponents who fell to an unlikely 3-0 home defeat to Wellington Phoenix last round. That result was Victory’s second consecutive loss having been beaten by Brisbane Roar 1-0 the week prior.
With finals just around the corner, the Wanderers will be desperate to prove they can match it with the Victory this time around and in turn keep a home final within their grasp.
As they enter this penultimate round as one of the competition’s most in-form teams, the Red & Black are proving that a season, just like a game of football, really can’t be defined until the final whistle blows.