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Western Sydney Wanderers too strong for Wellington Phoenix

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/02/2017
Nicolas Martinez of the Wanderers is congratulated on his goal by teammate Brendon Santalab. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Nicolas Martinez of the Wanderers is congratulated on his goal by teammate Brendon Santalab.

Western Sydney Wanderers' lacklustre A-League season has sparked into life with an emphatic 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

Nicolas Martinez's third goal of the season was bookended by a Brendon Santalab double as the eighth-placed Wanderers outplayed Wellington to edge into the top six for the first time since round nine.

It was Wanderers' fifth win of the season, edging them into playoff contention, while Wellington drop back down the table to eighth.

A 71st minute penalty by Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz was offset five minutes later by his second yellow card and a sending off.

Brendan Hamill of the Wanderers holds off the challenge of Kosta Barbarouses of the Phoenix © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Brendan Hamill of the Wanderers holds off the challenge of Kosta Barbarouses of the Phoenix

Wellington, just one point and one place ahead of the Wanderers going into the match, desperately needed a win after dropping points against Brisbane (1-0 loss) and Adelaide (2-2 draw) in their last two games.

The early omens were ominous, with Western Sydney's pace down the flanks keeping the home team defence scrambling.

The pressure inevitably told in the 22nd minute, with Santalab crashing home his seventh goal of the season, after good work from Martinez in the build-up.

Western Sydney continued to look sharper, particularly through the middle, but Wellington finished brightly with a couple of half-chances.

Kosta Barbarouses provided the best three minutes before the break when he crashed a through ball from Vince Lia into the side netting.

Wellington went to the bench early in the second spell, Gui Finkler replacing Roly Bonevacia but although the Phoenix briefly threatened, it was Western Sydney who struck first.

This time Santalab turned provider, teeing up Martinez for a cool finish and the Wanderers doubled their lead as the hour mark approached.

Five minutes later it was 3-0, Santalab grabbing his second after Terry Antonis completed a strong run to the by-line with the perfect pull-back for Santalab's clinical finish.

Wellington pulled one back through Smeltz's late penalty - his first goal since returning to the Phoenix after an eight-year absence.

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