Wanderers succumb to Penha-inspired defeat by Western United

A dazzling second-half display from Daniel Penha inspired Western United to a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium on Friday night.

The Wanderers led 1-0 through Nicolas Milanovic but Penha’s dinked assist to Matthew Grimaldi saw United equal the ledger.

Penha put his side ahead with a clinical finish in the 77th minute before teeing up Socceroos striker Nikita Rukavytsya to complete the turnaround and confirm back-to-back wins for the visitors for the first time this season.

Friday night’s loss was Western Sydney’s second disappointing result in succession after Round 19’s 4-1 defeat to Sydney FC.

A stop-start first half featured more spot fires than genuine chances on goal.

Ben Garuccio lost a tooth, Angus Thurgate took Brandon Borrello’s boot to the face in an accidental collision and Tomoki Imai sent Milanovic tumbling over the pitchside broadcast camera after a shoulder-to-shoulder at the halfway line.

Lachlan Brook’s 13th-minute shot from outside the box fizzed just wide of the bottom-right corner in what was the best opportunity for either side in the first half.

The Wanderers had six first half shots to United’s four, with the visitors putting the only shot on target before the break.

The contest was in need of a moment of quality to spark it into life after the break – and Milanovic duly obliged with a rasping strike which rattled the post on its way past Matthew Sutton to break the deadlock.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 08: Nicolas Milanovic (r) of the Wanderers celebrates with Marcelo after scoring a goal during the A-League Men round 20 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Western United at CommBank Stadium, on March 08, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Milanovic took the ball on the left wing, played it between the legs of United full-back Josh Risdon and dribbled around Thurgate before a one-two with Brandon Borrello on the edge of the area that gave the young Wanderers forward space to strike.

The away side almost struck back instantly and the equalising goal almost came direct from Penha’s corner delivery. The Brazilian swung the ball toward the front post and Marcelo headed the ball off the woodwork; the rebound fell to Thurgate whose strike deflected off Milanovic and out for another corner.

United ramped up the pressure and Michael Ruhs should have made it 1-1 but failed to turn a dangerous cross off the left wing on target from inside the six-yard box.

But the equaliser was soon to come. Grimaldi bagged his second Isuzu UTE A-League goal after a combination of Josh Risdon’s bravery and Penha’s magic in the build-up to the young midfielder’s tight-angled finish.

Ruhs was presented with another glorious chance and this time it was to put his side on top at CommBank Stadium, but his header off Garuccio’s cross lacked direction as Daniel Margush made a comfortable save in the centre of goal.

Penha showed no such inefficiency when presented the chance to put United on top. After assisting Grimaldi’s equaliser, Penha pounced on a loose touch from Aidan Simmons and lasered the ball into the bottom-right corner.

Rukavytsya emerged off the bench in the 78th minute and took just three minutes to find the back of the net and put United out of sight. Penha played the assist, feeding the Socceroo in for a one-on-one with Margush and a simple finish.