Western Sydney Wanderers had an impressive 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix on Saturday at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
Veteran forward Brendon Santalab scored a brace and supplied an assist to Nico Martinez’s goal, in the crucial win that saw the team end up in the top six at end of the round 18.
Coach Tony Popovic had made some prominent changes to the side that lost to Brisbane Roar the previous weekend, omitting Mitch Nichols, Lachlan Scott and a suspended Scott Neville from the starting XI.
Terry Antonis was given his first start, playing in front of Kearyn Baccus and Dimas, while Brendon Santalab, Jumpei Kusukami and Nicolas Martinez started up front, with a change of tactics put in place.
Santalab who has recently started on the bench, seemed keen to prove he is still the leading striker, getting the ball into the back of the net in the 13th minute which was then controversially ruled as offside.
He made up for it in the 22nd minute after playmaker Nico Martinez surged through the Phoenix defence, before slipping Santalab in behind and the striker fired home underneath an outstretched Glen Moss.
Martinez was next in the 58th minute slotting home from close range with Santalab scoring again 7 minutes later, blasting home the ball through a crowd of bodies.
The Phoenix managed to pull one back in the 71st minute after they were handed a penalty following a handball from Kearyn Baccus and Shane Smeltz made no mistake from the spot, sending Vedran Janjetovic the wrong way from 12 yards.
“We executed better and put away our opportunities,” Popovic said after the match
“We almost got dealt a blow at the start when we had a goal disallowed so we started thinking it might be another one of those days but the guys controlled what they could very well and in the end we probably could have had a few more.