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2021-22 Australian A-League Men, Regular Season
  • Tomer Hemed (66')
  • Johnny Koutroumbis (90'+3')

Western Sydney Wanderers claim first win of the season against Wellington Phoenix

Former Wellington striker Tomer Hemed came back to sink his former side as he led the Western Sydney Wanderers to a 2-0 win in Wollongong on Friday.

Hemed, who left the Phoenix in the off-season, bundled the ball over the line in the 66th minute for the Wanderers' first, after Wellington defender Joshua Laws had a similar goal called for offside in the first half.

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In stoppage time, Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail went up to compete at a corner but the deflection fell kindly for the Wanderers who ran the length of the field with Johnny Koutroumbis on hand to finish into an empty net.

The victory was the Wanderers' first of the A-League Men's campaign under Carl Robinson who dropped Dimitri Petratos and Ramy Najjarine from his starting XI.

Japanese import Keijiro Ogawa and Jack Rodwell were deployed in their place at WIN Stadium, with the Englishman playing 82 minutes.

It was Rodwell's first league start in more than two-and-a-half years, but he was fairly pedestrian after some impressive cameos from the bench in the opening two games of the season.

After a sluggish start against the Jets last time out, the Wanderers again began in cumbersome fashion with Thomas Aquilina clattering into Reno Piscopo in the 17th minute.

From the resulting free-kick, Phoenix midfielder Clayton Lewis fizzed a low ball towards the back post with Alex Rufer going agonisingly close to turning in the opener.

Soon after Wellington found the back of the net when Aquilina conceded a cheap corner as the Wanderers played out from the back.

Western Sydney goalkeeper Tomas Mejias missed an in-swinger with Laws bundling the ball over the line and wheeling away in celebration only for the goal to be disallowed.

Piscopo had two chances to put the Phoenix one up just before half-time, with Mejias on hand to parry away the first at the near post before the Wellington winger lashed his second attempt into the side netting.

The half-time break failed to halt the Phoenix's energetic opening as they sniffed out the Wanderers' forays into the final third and tested them at the other end.

Benjamin Old, who made his first A-League start, angled a shot wide of Mejias' left post in the 56th minute before James McGarry worked the Spaniard from the edge of the box with a dipping effort.

But against the run of play the Wanderers struck the decisive blow with a spiralling Bernie Ibini header from a free-kick being misread by Sail.

Hemed was on hand to nudge the ball over the line, with a VAR check required to award the Wanderers the goal.

Despite Phoenix playing positively throughout the match, the Wanderers were able to double their lead when Koutroumbis went the length of the field to finish into an empty goal.