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WSW end Sydney FC's unbeaten A-League run

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 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 claim their maiden derby win in more than three years.

Thirty-seven months after Brendon Santalab scored the winner in the Wanderers' last cross-town victory, the veteran striker set the stands alight on Saturday night with a 26th-minute opener that was never answered at ANZ Stadium.

Santalab's was a remarkable moment of composure in an open, at times frenetic affair peppered with penalty claims - and, of course, tempers that continued after the final whistle.

One in particular will be scrutinised heavily when, at the death and with tensions at boiling point, Robbie Cornthwaite hung out a leg that hauled down Sydney skipper Alex Brosque in the box.

The Sky Blues conceded after missing several early chances when Mitch Nichols jinked in a cross off a questionable corner.

Santalab feigned a first touch and patiently waited for a scrambling Bobo to slide past, before turning one-on-one with Danny Vukovic and burying with ease.

The striker played 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 surprise benching against Central Coast, the 34-year-old was the perpetrator of numerous reckless tackles but somehow didn't make it into referee Chris Beath's book until the 75th minute.

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.

Late in the first half, a clumsy challenge on Milos 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 skinning the entire backline and doubling the deficit.

Searching for a quick injection of pace and power, Arnold introduced Bernie Ibini just before the hour mark and almost immediately was robbed a goalmouth finish by Jack Clisby.

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

Soon after, tempers flared as a 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 Vedran Janjetovic made a superb double save to deny former teammate Bobo from point-blank range.

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