Western Sydney Wanderers have recorded their first win at Spotless Stadium, outclassing Wellington Phoenix 3-1 and opening up a five-point gap on seventh place on Sunday.
A tidy finish from Nico Martinez and brace from Brendon Santalab solidified the Wanderers’ place inside the six.
Gui Finkler’s wonderful free kick late on was not enough to spark a Wellington comeback.
Spotless curse reversed
After eight matches at Spotless Stadium this season, Western Sydney finally managed to register a maiden win on their temporary home turf. While Homebush has proved an unhappy hunting ground for the Red and Black this campaign, Popovic’s side saved their best home performance for the most crucial encounter of the season, with the win opening up a five-point gap on seventh place.
Poor form in the Homebush precinct has been a cause for concern for Wanderers fans this year, but the red and black faithful can rejoice at the timing of the win, which follows an impressive away victory to Korean champions FC Seoul mid-week.
With a finals berth all but sealed for Tony Popovic’s men, remaining meetings with Melbourne City, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United will indicate whether the Wanderers have what it takes to shake up the finals in April/May.
FFA fixture timing hindering A-League attendances
While Sydney FC have come under scrutiny for an average string of home attendance’s this season, the red and black faithful, barring two home derbies, have not been any better, again failing to draw a respectable crowd in arguably their most important fixture of the season.
However, FFA are not exactly doing the fans any favours – 7pm Sunday kick-offs are inconveniencing families, who will often neglect matches to ensure young ones are in bed at a reasonable hour. Similarly, 7:50pm kick-offs on Fridays and Saturdays are also keeping families home.
With total average attendances (12,512) at their lowest since 2010-11, FFA must surely assess their fixture scheduling ahead of next season.
Wellington’s fate all but sealed
A result in tonight’s match was paramount for Wellington’s finals hopes, as they dread the loss of crucial squad members next week ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup qualifying match in Fiji.
However, the Phoenix just were not good enough tonight, and must now overturn a five point deficit if they are to keep their season alive – a disappointing prospect given the promise of a strongly assembled squad this season.
Marquee signings Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler simply have not delivered for the Nix, this coupled with a difficult run of injuries means the Phoenix likely will not feature in the A-League finals… again.