A single goal to Western Sydney Wanderers’ Jaushua Sotirio condemned Canberra FC to a 1-0 defeat in the glamour friendly at Deakin Stadium but the home team can be incredibly proud of a performance that pushed the professionals all the way. Indeed, had Josip Jadric aimed a fraction lower when returning a half clearance from Ante Covic in the 88th minute from all of thirty metres, they may well have been celebrating a draw.
In truth the match was short on gilt-edged opportunities with Canberra FC entering the contest on the back of a disappointing National Premier Leagues: Capital Football loss to FFA COE and with Wanderers only into their second fixture of pre-season, the opening was a scrappy affair. Both midfields were battling hard with challenges flying in and no quarter asked or given but little in the way of penetration in the final third.
The Wanderers finally broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute and, when the goal came, it was a cracker. Canberra FC failed to clear a corner and the ball fell on the edge of the box to Sotirio. Sotirio flipped the ball over the head of the covering defence and crashed a low left-footed drive across the face of FC custodian Jakob Cole and into the far corner.
The hosts were struggling to make any impact on the match due to the hard pressing of the Wanderers’ in midfield, not allowing the FC trinity of James Field, Ian Graham and Anthony Giorgi any time on the ball. They did make a chance with five minutes left off the half as Philippe Bernabo-Madrid engineered some space on the edge of the box to curl an effort at goal that had Dean Bouzanis stretching to his limit and relieved to see the shot go just wide of his post.
Trailing 0-1 at the interval, FC sent on leading scorer Alex Oloriegbe after the break and his pace caused instant problems for the Wanderers rear-guard. A long ball released the striker and it was only the agility of Ante Covic, a half-time replacement for Dean Bouzanis, which stopped the forward from levelling the scores.
At the other end Sotirio curled an effort wide of goal from the next Wanderers attack but it was FC who made the better openings towards the conclusion, even if they were but half-chances. Jadric hooked a shot at goal that was blocked for a corner before Domenic Giampaolo thrashed in an effort that Covic beat away only for James Field to sky the rebound before a Field free-kick failed to test Covic. Numerous substitutions affected the flow of the match late on with both Tony Popovich and Andy Bernal emptying their benches.
Late on, a thumping half-volley from Mateo Poljak examined the alertness of Jakob Cole before the late Jadric blast that almost brought parity. As it was the Wanderers held on to record their second successive 1-0 win in pre-season whilst FC Head Coach Bernal and his players can be proud of the gallant performance his side displayed against one of the countries’ pre-eminent teams.