A goal in each half has delivered Western Sydney three points for Christmas as they accounted for Newcastle 2-0 at Pirtek Stadium on Thursday night.
A first Hyundai A-League goal from Alberto Aguilar and a Mark Bridge strike did the damage for the home side, who now sit five points clear at the top of the standings.
The Jets will feel aggrieved not have been awarded a first-half penalty, as well as have a marginal off-side call go against them but have now failed to score in their last four outings.
Tony Popovic made four changes to the eleven that started in Perth last weekend with attacking trio Mark Bridge, Romeo Castelen and Federico Piovaccari all named, while Dimas replaced suspended Spanish compatriot Andreu.
Newcastle had Daniel Mullen back from injury ahead of schedule, with the centre-back having missed the last seven matches, while Cameron Watson replaced the suspended Jason Hoffman.
1-0 Alberto (45+2) – In the shadows of half-time Scott Jamieson whipped in a free-kick that found Alberto unmarked at the back stick. The Spaniard made good connection with his header and although Birighitti got his body behind the ball was unable to keep it out.
2-0 Bridge (70’) – Substitute Dario Vidosic made an almost immediate impact when some fine footwork on the edge of the box drew a save from Birighitti. The parry fell to Bridge who produced a deft touch to make space before finding the back of the net with a composed finish.
The Jets were arguably unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when the scores were deadlocked after the Wanderers appeared to handle the ball in the box. Defenders Scott Neville and Daniel Mullen both attacked a Jets corner, with Neville’s leading arm seemingly making contact with the ball. While the handball was spotted the call went against Mullen and Western Sydney were let off the hook.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Wanderers striker Mark Bridge has now scored in each of his last five starts.
Newcastle’s loss is their first at Pirtek Stadium after they were previously the only remaining unbeaten side at Western Sydney’s home ground.
The result extends the Wanderers unbeaten run to nine matches (W8 D1).
The Jets have now failed to score in their last six hours of A-League football.
Romeo Castelen seemed destined to double the home side’s advantage when he scooted away from his marker on the hour mark. The Dutchman showed his speed and agility, first tearing down the sideline before cutting inside but the cover defence arrived just in time to smother Castelen’s shot over the bar.
A head clash between Scott Neville and Nick Cowburn left both players worse for wares after they competed for the ball. Cowburn had to be taken to the sideline for treatment and was subsequently substituted at the break.
Tony Popovic hasn’t had a lot to worry about during his side’s unbeaten run but the finishing ability of marquee striker Federico Piovaccari continues to be a concern. Although the Italian had scored in his last two outings he had numerous chances to add to his season tally but his placement was lacking.
THE FINAL WORD
The Wanderers will certainly enjoy their Christmas turkey having extended their lead at the summit and unbeaten run to nine matches.
Western Sydney have now equalled the record for scoring two or more goals in eight straight games and will look to extend that run at home against Adelaide on New Year’s Day.
It’s the total opposite for Newcastle who are now winless in their last eight matches and have failed to score in their last four.
That little bit of luck continues to evade the Jets and no doubt Scott Miller will look to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window.
Western Sydney Wanderers: Redmayne(GK), Neville, Alberto, Topor-Stanley(c), Jamieson, Dimas, Pepper, Nichols (Vidosic 64’), Castelen (Santalab 88’), Bridge (Mebrahtu 80’), Piovaccari
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti(GK), Mullen, Boogaard(c), Kantarovski, Watson, Alivodic, Poljak, Trifunovic, Carney, Cowburn (Jackson 46’), Kitto (Crowley 71’)
Scorers: Alberto 45+2, Bridge 70’
Yellow cards: Cowburn (9’), Topor-Stanley (56’), Trifunovic (64’), Carney (84’)
Red cards: nil
Conditions: 22°C, clear