Despite battling the effects of a storm, fatigue and jet lag, Western Sydney Wanderers had enough will power to hold on for a point at home to Adelaide United in a stalemate at a near-waterlogged Pirtek Stadium.
‘‘Pleased, very pleased,’’ Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said. ‘‘The character, the desire in difficult conditions, the pitch was very heavy and the players just got back from China yesterday, even if they didn’t play from the start, it’s still a long trip and in the second half they still came home strong which is very pleasing.’’
So drenched was the field at Parramatta on Saturday that the cameramen, ground announcers and club officials were sweeping water away with advertising boards. There was more water than grass visible by the scheduled kick-off time, forcing a half-hour delay, but the soggy conditions failed to stifle both teams notorious short passing game.
Sweeping diagonal play by Adelaide stretched the Wanderers and a tidy cut back from Sergio Cirio to Marcelo Carrusca exposed holes in their back line. The visitors should have taken the lead when Carrusca crossed low for Fabio Ferreira at the back post, but the Portuguese winger blazed his shot over the bar when a simple tap-in would have done the job.
The Wanderers spent the majority of the first half chasing the ball but eventually found a breakthrough in the 35th minute when Adam D’Apuzzo picked out Youssouf Hersi in the box with a deep cross. Hersi broke free from his marker to fire a first-time volley in his stride but failed to guide it into the bottom corner of the net. That chance spurred the hosts forward; as they so often do, they began to apply pressure after enduring so much for so long as they found more space in more dangerous areas, but their momentum was halted by the break.
It was a timely pause for the Reds, whose fluid play only became more advanced after the restart, and they should have opened their account two minutes later. A clever no-look pass from Carrusca played his Argentiniancompatriot Jeronimo Neumann through on goal but he was too clever with his angled shot and scuffed his chance across the face of the goal.
The duo were constant threats for the Wanderers and combined again for perhaps the best chance of thematch. Neumann crossed for Carrusca but a hashed attempted clearance by Nikolai Topor-Stanley put the ball on a plate for Carrusca in the middle of the box. With time and space to shoot, Adelaide’s playmaker spared further embarrassment for Topor-Stanley by scuffing his shot wide of goal.
Their wasteful ways were nearly punished just after the hour-mark when Aaron Mooy was given too much time on the edge of the box, but a rare shot on target was fired directly into the arms of Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
There was a slightly subdued mood around the stadium but that changed completely when the home fans saw star striker Tomi Juric remove his bib to make his return from injury, replacing Brendon Santalab. The move coincided with a rise in tempo from the Wanderers, who responded to the cries of the 11,892 fans present with more direct play. Galekovic was brought into the action more but never from a range close enough to worry the goalkeeper.
The momentum had firmly swung in favour of the hosts and the Reds were barely hanging on by injury time and would have conceded a late winner from Juric if not for a spectacular save by Galekovic.