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Western Sydney Wanderers win earn home semi with win over Wellington Phoenix

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/04/2016

Brendon Santalab of the Wanderers controls the ball under pressure from Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Brendon Santalab of the Wanderers controls the ball under pressure from Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix. Veteran striker Brendon Santalab's late-season goal rush has earned Western Sydney a 2-0 win over Wellington and a week's respite before the A-League semi-finals.

The Wanderers hadn't won or scored in their last three trips to Westpac Stadium and had won just two of their past 18 away matches.

Last time the two teams met, in mid-February, the Phoenix ran away with an impressive 5-2 victory.

But 33-year-old Santalab's second brace in the space of a week, both goals coming in the first half, gave Western Sydney their 14th win of the season and sealed second place on the ladder to earn a home semi-final.

Santalab now has 10 goals for the season alongside fellow striker Mitch Nichols and his pace and combination with Romeo Castelen proved a real handful for Wellington's defence.

Desperate to send off veteran defenders Manny Muscat and Ben Sigmund with a win, the Phoenix created plenty of chances but their finishing just wasn't up to scratch.

Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix acknowledges the crowd with son, Cameron after his final game during the round 27 A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix acknowledges the crowd with son, Cameron after his final game during the round 27 A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers

Michael McGlinchey's 11th minute pile-driver from 25 metres out eluded a diving Andrew Redmayne only to ricochet back off the upright, while Roly Bonevacia, Blake Powell and Roy Krishna also forced solid saves from the Wanderers keeper.

But while Wellington couldn't convert their chances, the Wanderers' pace through the middle created acres of space and Santalab was inevitably the right man in the right place to give the visitors the lead after 31 minutes.

Castelen's ball into the box eluded Moss on his near post and Santalab bundled it over for a well-earned lead.

If there was an element of luck in the first goal, the second was pure class. With halftime looming, Castelen sliced through Wellington's midfield and shifted the ball wide to Santalab whose precision finish left Glen Moss no chance.

Castelen continued to create havoc in the second spell until his 77th minute substitution, and the Wanderers looked especially dangerous on the counterattack as Wellington threw players forward in search of a goal.

Their best chance came as the hour mark ticked over, Bonevacia's shot from the edge of the box cannoning off the upright.

But there was to be no late consolation, leaving the Wanderers' impressive contingent of travelling fans to celebrate a comprehensive win, clinically achieved in front of a 10,143-strong crowd.

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