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WSW end Sydney FC's unbeaten A-League run

NZN 18/02/2017 Emma Kemp

Western Sydney have sent Sydney FC to their first A-League defeat this season, shocking the runaway leaders 1-0 to end their 19-match unbeaten run.

Three years after the Wanderers last beat their cross-town rivals, striker Brendan Santalab set the stands alight on Saturday night with a 26th minute goal at ANZ Stadium.

The match was an open, at times frenetic affair peppered with penalty claims - and one in particular will be scrutinised heavily.

In the game's dying moments, Western Sydney's Robbie Cornthwaite hung out a leg that hauled down Sydney skipper Alex Brosque in the box.

"That's football isn't it," Sydney coach Graham Arnold said.

"I know the players are extremely disappointed. They feel there was potentially at least two (penalties).

"But at the end of the day plenty of other coaches have been talking about it so I'll leave it to them."

Santalab played both hero and villain on a controversial night, depending which camp the 44,843-strong crowd were in.

Back in the starting line-up after last week's benching against Central Coast, the 34-year-old committed numerous reckless tackles but somehow didn't make it into referee Chris Beath's book until the 75th minute for a nasty from-behind challenge on Milos Ninkovic.

He made his presence known from kickoff with a late studs-up challenge on Danny Vukovic, before a bicycle-kick attempt landed straight in Brandon O'Neill's face.

"In all aspects of the game we more than matched Sydney," Wanderers coach Tony Popovic said.

"They're obviously a very good team ... we showed tonight we're a very good team, which we knew we were."

Late in the first half, a clumsy challenge on Ninkovic in Sydney's box prompted a penalty shout, though Ninkovic was ruled to have handballed as the Serb collapsed to the turf.

The Sky Blues' discipline dissolved after the break and it was only an out-of-nowhere clearance from Michael Zullo that stopped Nichols from scoring for the Wanderers.

Arnold was later livid as another penalty shout came and went, though replays suggested Clisby had been going in for a header when the ball collected him on the arm.

Soon after, tempers flared as a heavy foul on Ninkovic sparked an all-in melee and gave way to a frantic final 20 minutes during which Vukovic twice kept Sydney in the game and Janjetovic made a superb double save to deny former teammate Bobo from point-blank range.

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