Wanderers take second behind Santalab brace
Western Sydney Wanderers have defeated Wellington Phoenix 2-0 at Westpac Stadium in the final round of the season with a brace from Brendan Santalab securing second place for the Red and Black.
Wellington, who had already secured ninth spot on the ladder, were playing for pride as they gave a final farewell to two of their most experienced players in Ben Sigmund and Manny Muscat.
The Wanderers approached the game aiming for maximum points. A win would carry them to second spot on the ladder.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was forced to make only one change to his starting line-up with Alex Rodriguez filling in for his suspended compatriot Albert Riera.
Western Sydney also made only one change with Dimas Delgado returning to the side to replace Kearyn Baccus in midfield.
Michael McGlinchey came close in the 11th minute as he released a curling shot on goal from outside the box, but the ball collided with left-hand post to deny the home side of the opening goal.
Dimas had a great chance to score for the Wanderers in the 17th minute after he found himself free inside the goal box with the possession of the ball, but the ever-present Ben Sigmund was there to block his effort.
The Wanderers came even closer in the 24th minute through Romeo Castelen, as he surged into the box and held off the trailing defenders to fire a shot at goal, but the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
Around the half an hour mark, the game began to break wide open with chances coming at both ends.
The Phoenix led a counter attack in the 30th minute down the right wing with McGlinchey crossing the ball for Blake Powell whose shot on goal forced a brilliant one-handed save out of Andrew Redmayne.
But it was the Wanderers who eventually opened the scoring in the 31st minute through Brendan Santalab. Castelen charged towards goal and squared a pass for Santalab who managed to get a touch on the ball as it trickled over the goal line to make it 1-0.
Shortly before half-time, Santalab scored a second goal in the 44th minute. Castelen again played in Santalab who sent a low drive into the far corner from the edge of the box for his 10th goal of the season.
Roly Bonevacia had a great opportunity to score in the 61st minute as he took a strike on goal from inside the box, but midfielder’s shot ricocheted off the post.
The second half was far less frantic than the first with limited chances at both ends. Wanderers substitute Brendan Hamill attempted a long-range strike in the 71st minute, but his shot dribbled wide of the target.
The Phoenix, desperate to give their fans something to cheer about in their final game of the season, had a couple of corners in quick succession around the 78th minute, but they failed to find the definitive strike on goal.
The Wanderers ended up wining the match with Santalab’s first-half double proving enough to give them a winning boost heading into the finals.
Western Sydney Wanderers will have one week off after finishing second on the ladder, while Wellington will be hoping for bigger and better things in 2016/17.
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