There was no New Year’s cheer for Hyundai A-League battlers Western Sydney Wanderers FC and Central Coast Mariners, with the two playing out a turgid stalemate on Thursday night.
In a match lacking of any great quality or goal-scoring chances, both sides struggled in the hot conditions at Pirtek Stadium and were unable to secure drought-breaking wins.
It means the Wanderers remain rooted to the foot of the ladder without a victory from their first 11 games of the season while the Mariners are 12 without a win.
A wanderers corner early in the second half almost resulted in a goal after Liam Reddy’s mis-hit punch only went as far as Nick Kalmar. With the ball just behind him, Kalmar attempted an audacious overhead kick which appeared headed for the top corner, only for Josh Rose to scramble back on the line and head it away to safety and keep the scores level
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The stalemate means it’s four times from the last five games that Central Coast have failed to score against the Wanderers, including a 0-0 at the same venue earlier this season. Wanderers are also having trouble finding the back of the net, now four games in a row without a goal.
A tame first half almost ended with the Mariners taking the lead if not for the heroics of Ante Covic. The Wanderers ‘keeper initially spilt Matt Sim’s strike from just outside the box but then got on his feet quickly to smother an attempt by Nick Fitzgerald, before Covic made himself big again to block Josh Rose’s effort from the rebound. It was an incredible triple save from the veteran gloveman which ensured his side remained on level terms going to the break.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
New signing Nick Kalmar made his first start for the Wanderers and played in the unfamiliar role just in behind striker Nikita Rukavytsya. Predominantly a holding midfielder during his time at Melbourne City, Kalmar struggled to make an impact in the playmaker position, rarely getting on the ball in dangerous areas and unable to be the link between midfield and attack. It makes Tony Popovic’s decision to leave out Vitor Saba even more puzzling.
THE FINAL WORD
The Wanderers have just five days to find their shooting boots, with the free-scoring Melbourne Victory next up at Pirtek Stadium on Tuesday night. The Mariners have less than three days before their next match, with the in-form Melbourne City heading up the F3 to Gosford on Sunday afternoon.