Port Kembla’s Corey Gameiro had his chance for Sydney FC, but it was Illawarra rival Brendon Santalab who secured the Wanderers their first home A-League derby victory at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night.
Santalab, who came on as a substitute for striker Tomi Juric on the hour, scored the winner in the 87th minute to ensure the triumph over their cross-town rivals in what was a frenetic arm wrestle.
In the previous four derbies, surprisingly the Wanderers have won both clashes at Allianz Stadium but were yet to record a derby win in front of their own fans.
The victory lifts the Wanderers to within four points of front-runners Brisbane.
Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said despite remaining scoreless until the 87th minute he never doubted they’d win.
‘‘No I didn’t doubt it. Football is like that sometimes where you have so many opportunities and you hit the post so many times but you’ve got to keep believing,’’ he said.
‘‘The players were back to the way we play. We didn’t lose our structure, we defended well, we kept believing that we’d get a goal.
‘‘Derbies are difficult. I said yesterday ‘Do whatever it takes to win the three points’.
The contest may have been heated on the pitch, the supporters were well behaved during the match with Football Federation Australia to impose a three-point deduction on the Wanderers should their fans not toe the line.
The Wanderers, who suffered their first home loss in 12 months to lowly Wellington last week, came out with a point to prove and went on the attack.
While Sydney skipper Alessandro Del Piero showed some deft touches, Wanderers gloveman Ante Covic was barely troubled in the opening half.
His Sydney FC counterpart Vedran Janjetovic, on the other hand, was kept on his toes with the Wanderers hitting the woodwork four times in the first half.
Sydney coach Frank Farina brought on young forward Gameiro for veteran Brett Emerton early in the second half and the move almost paid off right away with a Gameiro strike just floating high.
But it was Popovic’s 60th-minute substitute of Santalab for Juric that proved crucial, the striker netting the winner off a great Youssouf Hersi cross in the 87th minute. - AAP