THE 10,141 fans at Pirtek Stadium were treated to an early Christmas present as they watched the Wanderers go five points clear at the top after goals from Alberto and Mark Bridge gave them a 2-0 win over the Newcastle Jets.
The Christmas Eve clash also extended Western Sydney’s unbeaten run to nine games — eight wins and one draw — as they head into 2016 as the team to beat in the A-League this season.
The Wanderers scored either side of half time and, while they were made to work for their lead in the first half, it was another thoroughly deserved win against a team that didn’t show nearly enough impetus going forward. The Jets sat back for the majority of the game, and paid the price for it.
While the Wanderers dominated possession, the Jets did have their chances in the first half. Ryan Kitto forced Andrew Redmayne into making a good save after he was played in by David Carney, then later in the half it took an excellent, sliding tackle from Scott Neville in the box to prevent Milos Trifunovic from putting the visitors ahead.
But the Jets had some let off’s too, particularly from Federico Piovaccari in the 16th minute. The Italian striker was set up by Mark Bridge, but only managed to blaze his effort over the woodwork with a gaping net in front of him. Piovaccari’s next attempt was well saved by Mark Birighitti, but the Jets keeper won’t want to watch the replays of the opening goal.
Defender Aberto scored on the stroke of half time after his header bounced off Birighitti’s chest and into the back of the net. It was a costly error as the home side went on to maintain a firm grip on the game from that point. Still, the Wanderers may have been a touch fortunate to head into the break with the lead with Newcastle unable to finish their chances.
The home side came out in the second half in complete control and should have added a second goal when Romeo Castelen ran into the box, cut the ball back onto his left foot, but watched his effort fly over the crossbar.
It was that man Bridge again though who stepped up to double the lead. After Dario Vidosic’s initial shot ricocheted off the defenders, Bridge pounced to curl the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net. It was his fifth goal in five games for the club favourite.