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Record-setting Santalab is Wanderers' hero

NZN 24/03/2017 Adrian Warren

Evergreen Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab has set a new club goalscoring record as his hat-trick helped shore up the club's A-League finals hopes with a 3-1 home victory over Melbourne City,

The 34-year-old poacher swelled his tally for the season to 14, eclipsing the previous record of 11 he had shared with Mark Bridge.

Sanatalab equalised midway through the first half at Spotless Stadium on Friday, after City took a fortuitous lead in the third minute when a Neil Kilkenny shot deflected off Wanderers' defender Jonathan Aspropotamitis.

He then added two more in four minutes in the second half.

City spurned a glorious opportunity to stage a late rally when captain Bruno Fornaroli had his 75th-minute penalty blocked by the legs of home goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.

City had a good share of the game early on, but Wanderers created more clear cut chances and in Santalab they had the perfect executioner.

It was his first hat-trick and just the third in Wanderers' history.

Incredibly, the 34-year-old veteran has started only 10 of the 19 games he's played this season.

However, a second-half booking will force him to miss the Wanderers' next game through suspension.

He has scored almost half of their 30 goals this season and has 10 more than any of his colleagues.

Wanderers missed two wonderful first-half chances with Argentine playmaker Nicolas Martines, who set up Sanatalab's first, involved in both.

Before Santalab equalised, Mitch Nichols had a shot blocked by goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen in a one-on-one after being released by Martinez.

The Argentine then wasted an equally good opportunity when he fired wide from close range just before the break.

Nichols, whose goalscoring touch has disappeared this season, had a header and shot saved by Thomas Sorensen early in the second half.

Wanderers also had Jack Clisby and Kearyn Baccus booked while City's Osama Malik and Ruon Tongyik also got a yellow card.

Like Santalab, Malik will miss the next game through suspension.

Wanderers' coach Tony Popovic hailed Santalab as a special player after his team completed successive A-League wins for the first time this season.

"It doesn't end with him does it, he just keeps performing, he keeps delivering," Popovic said.

He was pleased with the way his side fought back against a team renowned as excellent front-runners and how they played in the second half after getting frustrated at missing chances in the first 45 and getting away from the game plan.

'"At halftime we told the players to regain their composure and keep believing, knowing that we will get through and we will get more opportunities and you could see that for large parts of the second half." Popovic said.

"Melbourne City did well for large parts of the first half in trying to stop the way we were trying to, penetrate them.

"In the second half it became a lot easier but you still have to punish the opponent when you get those chances and we managed to do that."

City coach Michael Valkanis was disappointed with the fashion in which his side conceded the two second half goals after being pleased with their first half performance.

"There were two crosses that I think we should have dealt with quite comfortably and we should have done a lot better, it's very frustrating," Valkanis said.

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