WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS: ASIA’S NEWEST MARQUEE CLUB

Western Sydney Wanderers have shocked the continent. Wests downed current Asian champs Guangzhou Evergrande overnight, in a match that had all the trademarks of a classic. There was cut and thrust on the field, pure passion in the stands, and temper tantrums on the sidelines, as Marcello Lippi lost his rag in the latter stages.

After dominating the first half with their classy midfield, boasting Elkeson and Diamanti, the Chinese outfit was steamrolled in the second half. Guangzhou finished the match with a dominant 56 percent possession statistic, but the visitors produced less shots on goal than the red and black. For all their class and lack of ‘fiscal restraint’, Guangzhou just couldn’t break down the out of season Wanderers. Not even tattooed right back Zhang, Linpeng could get beyond the well marshalled and willing defence.

In the 60th minute the Wanderers shocked everyone, (except those that live in another reality) when they went ahead. The goal came via an innocuous looking cross that appeared manageable for your average weekend warrior, but Tom Juric’s faint deflection was enough to steer the ball beyond the keeper’s grasp. It’s possible the keeper’s vision was obstructed by his teammate Kim, Young-Gwon, who was tracking Juric.
From that point on the temperature just continued to rise. Finally it all boiled over when Zhang, Linpeng was fouled by Iacopo La Rocca. La Rocca had jostled with Zhang until the referee blew his whistle, but in a sign of the frustration the champions were feeling, Zhang lashed out (with his back to La Rocca) and hit his opponent flush on the face with a backhander. Without hesitation Egyptian ref Mohamed Hassan flashed his red card at the right-back, kicking off a kerfuffle that didn’t want to end.
Already down to ten, things got worse for Guangzhou two minutes later. Wanderers’ new signing Vitor Saba milked a foul after substitute Liu retaliated to an errant elbow from the wiry midfielder. A fraction of a second later as Saba hit the deck, Gao, Lin arrived on the scene. The striker tried to pull up – caught by surprise at Saba’s theatrics – and did well to merely graze the Brazilian as he propped on his left leg. But once again referee Hassan saw red.
And so it was that mayhem ensued. Within the blink of an eye, Guangzhou’s esteemed Italian manager was invading the pitch to give little Hassan some lip. It may have been deserved but Lippi can expect to be banished to the stands for the second leg. Along with a manager in the stands, Guangzhou will be without their ‘go-to’ striker Gao, Lin and defender Zhang, Linpeng.
Next week sees the return leg, and it’s a promoters dream. Australia’s team from the football heartland, taking on the continental heavyweights, in their backyard. Vitally Wanderers go to China not having conceded an away goal, and carrying a 1-0 lead.
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Spreading the word on soccer in East Asia.

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