Western Sydney have made it six wins straight and are now one point off top spot after downing the Victory 2-1 in Melbourne on Saturday
|By IAIN STRACHAN
Western Sydney proved again they are the real deal on Saturday night, holding off the Melbourne Victory to win 2-1 in their A-League clash at AAMI Park.
Iacopo La Rocca and Shinji Ono scored in the first and second half respectively for the visitors, with Connor Pain's well-taken goal arriving too late for Victory to find a way back into the match.
The Wanderers have now won six matches in succession, and the first-year team continue to shape as genuine title contenders with the A-League finals fast approaching.
Tony Popovic's side, second on the table, are now five points ahead of third-placed Victory.
Victory, with new signing Daniel Mullen debuting at centre-back, controlled possession early in the game, but it was the Wanderers who opened the scoring in the 11th minute.
Adrian Leijer was unable to clear Ono's curling free-kick, and La Rocca got to the loose ball first, slotting beyond Nathan Coe to make it 1-0.
Conceding against the run of play knocked Victory's confidence, and they had difficulty regaining control of possession.
The hosts, missing the injured Archie Thompson, were restricted to half-chances throughout the opening 45 minutes.
Their best opportunity fell to Marcos Flores in the 20th minute, but the Argentine dwelled in possession and allowed the Wanderers defence to intercept.
At the other end, Dino Kresinger headed wide for the visitors, while Ono and La Rocca both sent speculative efforts over the bar.
Mullen was withdrawn for James Jeggo just past the hour mark, prompting Leigh Broxham to drop back to the defence.
It was a solid enough effort from the former Adelaide United man and he at least looked more assured than partner Leijer.
The Victory captain had a shaky evening, and almost gifted the Wanderers a goal in the 54th minute when he attempted a back-pass unsighted, allowing Youssouf Hersi through on goal, but the Dutchman shot wide.
On 72 minutes, the Wanderers did make it 2-0 when Hersi cut inside and shot at Coe, who could only parry the ball into the path of Ono.
The Japanese star made no mistake from the rebound, guiding his effort into the roof of the net.
That goal looked like settling it, but the hosts, toothless for much of the game, unexpectedly pounced three minutes later to keep the match alive.
Billy Celeski played in Pain and the youngster, on as a substitute for Flores, showed pace and strength to beat Jerome Polenz, before netting past Ante Covic with a cool finish to the far post.
But no equaliser was forthcoming, as Popovic's impressive outfit bagged all three points on their first visit to Melbourne.