There may be a different coach in the dugout, but the same old issues are costing Western Sydney Wanderers. That was very clear on Friday night as Melbourne City capitalized on a disastrous class of defense to climb to the top of the A-League Men’s ladder with an easy 3-1 victory.
City had to weather an early storm from Wanderers but once they did they did it all their way at the CommBank Stadium, with a brace from Socceroo Mathew Leckie and a pearl from Florin Berenguer enough to comfortably seal the three points.
It was a second consecutive loss for Western Sydney in new manager Mark Rudan’s third game in charge – and he’s lucky this one wasn’t even heavier, with Jamie Maclaren taking a penalty in the 66th minute after Mark Natta needlessly shot Aiden O’ Neill in the box.
Wanderers even received a late consolation goal, which gave the scoreboard an unwarranted touch of respectability. He was scored from the spot by Dimi Petratos in the 80th minute, after a chance penalty in which Petratos kicked the ball into the hand of City’s Curtis Good, who had little time to react as he stood at the edge of the surface.
Rudan’s predecessor, Carl Robinson, was never able to adequately address Wanderers’ repeated failures while defending set pieces – a foul that now appears to be deeply embedded in the team itself on this evidence, both of Leckie’s first-half goals coming from a dead ball. situations and in the midst of almost zero pressure.
Wanderers had partly averted the danger of a 36th-minute corner kick when Aiden O’Neill sent a speculative aerial ball back into the box. An unmarked Leckie followed him all the way, patiently waiting for him to fall on top of him before contorting his body to generate enough power on his head to zip past goalkeeper Tomas Meijas.
Seven minutes later, Leckie completed his brace with a chilling header from another corner just before the break. On both occasions, Western Sydney’s defense proved utterly deficient.
“We are changing certain behaviors and habits. We worked on a lot of things. It was just a set piece, a second phase set piece – we were pushing, we weren’t picking up, it’s a bit of naivety,” Rudan said.
“Mark Natta is a young lad but he will continue to grow and learn from these things, our goalkeeper should have been pushed a bit more too. And you talk about Mathew Leckie who has almost 100 caps for the Socceroos – c is the difference right now.