Western Sydney Wanderers maintained their unbeaten start to the A-League season with a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night.
An 82nd minute strike from Mark Bridge was the difference between the two sides after Labinot Haliti had sent a pinpoint cross over the face of goal.
The Victory looked the better side for significant periods of the round six fixture, but couldn’t make the most of their chances when they came, with Archie Thompson a chief offender.
The win moves the Wanderers to the top of the A-League table, but Brisbane Roar can reclaim top spot with a win over the Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
Before a crowd of 15,854 in persistent rain the Victory pressed well early with the Wanderers having to rely on counter attack to force their way into the game.
But the home side again showed persistence and self belief are two of their key characteristics.
The hosts dominated the last half hour of the game in forcing their fourth win of the season with the Socceroos squad watching on ahead of their friendly against Costa Rica in Sydney on Tuesday.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the first half and would have gone to the break ahead if Thompson had made the most of his chances.
He made a meal of a shot from point-blank range in the 13th minute and as the half wound down sent a shot across the face of goal in the 42nd minute.
Connor Pain, who like Thompson consistently troubled the Wanderers defence in the opening 45 minutes, had a shot blocked by Ante Covic in the 38th minute in the Victory’s other good chance for a goal.
The Wanderers had to wait until two minutes from the break for their best opportunity when Nathan Coe parried a brilliant strike from Bridge over the top of the goal and the teams went to halftime at 0-0.
The Victory had a chance to claim a point with a corner in time added on but the Wanderers defence had little trouble in getting the ball clear.
Western Sydney’s Jerome Polenz earned a yellow card for a challenge on James Troisi in the 10th minute, while Troisi earned one himself for a clumsy effort on Shannon Cole in the 61st minute.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic paid credit to an impressive effort from his team across the park in securing their fourth successive win.
“I think all-round it was a very good performance against a very good team,” he said.
“It was another good result in difficult conditions.
“The patches were a bit longer in regard to our good play.”
Victory boss Kevin Muscat bemoaned the second straight week his team would return home from Sydney without a win, on the back of last week’s 3-2 loss to Sydney FC.
“The performance was good but obviously we go away with nothing,” he said.
“We should have got something out of the game.
“We were on top for big parts of the first half but we just needed a bit more patience in the final third.
“But they defended well. They make it hard for you, especially up here … everyone takes responsibility.
“It got to the last 10 minutes there and we couldn’t hold them out.
“If we had have scored a goal in the first half it might have been a different story.”