Match Day 1 Review

Western Suburbs 2 - Lower Hutt 2

WS: Xavier Green 5, Mohamed Awad 23

LH: William Ankarhake 63, Jack Imray 74

Reporter: Tony Bissell

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Wests Formation (4-3-3) LH Formation (4-3-3)

Isaac Tetteh

Alex Clayton, Erik Panzer, Nando Pijnaker, Robbie Sabo

 Dom Wooldridge, Harry Edge, Josh Rogerson

Elijah  Just, Mohamed Awad, Xavier Green 

Wests Subs:

Marko Stamenic for Dom Wooldridge (45 mins) – Straight Swap

Matt Garbett for Robbie Sabo (65 mins) – Elijah Just moved to left-back

Ryan Feutz for Mohamed Awad (82 mins) – Straight swap

Central League Champions, Wests started the new season against a young, but physical, LH side on a fine day at Endeavour. Although missing a number of Auckland City and US-based players, Declan Edge was able to name a strong team, emphasising the depth of talent coming through the Olé Academy.

LH coach, Steve Coleman, matched Wests’ 4-3-3 formation, but in the early exchanges, his players appeared to be caught in-between pressing and holding tactics. This resulted in LH preforming both tactical options quite poorly. Frequently, LH would commit insufficient players to make a meaningful forward press, enabling Wests to easily pass around them. Then, with 2-3 players stranded upfield, LH’s defence lacked compactness and Wests were able to create several clear-cut openings.

Xavier Green and Josh Rogerson had attempts blocked in the first minute, after a darting run from Alex Clayton. It didn’t take long for the opening goal though, with Xavier Green making no mistake after a fine run and cross from Elijah Just.

Chances continued to flow, including a Dom Wooldridge free-kick smacking against the post with the LH keeper well beaten, and Elijah Just having an effort cleared off the line.  Inevitably, a second goal arrived, and again demonstrated great teamwork. Erik Panzer found Alex Clayton who then linked with Xavier Green before Mohamed Awad was slotted in for a cool finish.

Clearly LH had to change something, and it was noticeable that their tactics had been tweaked, with the team starting to play a more aggressive high press. This brought about an improved period for LH, with Erik Panzer and Nando Pijnaker both making crucial interceptions to prevent goal-scoring opportunities. LH’s best chance of the half came from a short corner routine, where Wests’ zonal marking was slow to respond, and Isaac Tetteh had to be alert to tip over Jack Imray’s shot.

LH could have gone into damage limitation mode for the second half, but instead they decided to “give it a go”, maintaining a more concerted high press tactic. This could easily have back-fired as a third goal for West would likely open the flood-gates. Indeed, in the early stages of the second half, Wests seemed certain to add to their tally, as the front-three continued to look menacing on every break, with Xavier Green and Mohamed Awad both close to getting a crucial third goal.

Out of the blue though, William Ankarhake took advantage of some sloppy defending, halving the deficit with a neat curling shot. The play then became quite frenetic as LH sensed their chance to steal something from the game, and unfortunately a second piece of early season defensive rustiness, with Isaac Tetteh caught in possession, presented a gift equalizer to Jack Imray.

As LH searched for a winner, Wests were indebted to the defensive rocks of Erik Panzer and Nando Pijnaker for some vital blocks, with Isaac Tetteh also pulling off two excellent saves. It was not one-way traffic though, and Wests still had the better chances in the last 15 minutes, with impressive sub Matt Garbett hitting a piledriver just wide, and Mohamed Awad seeing his close-range header smothered by the keeper.

In an entertaining game, LH should be applauded for their positive second half approach which ultimately earned them a point. Wests should still have won comfortably though, and can take many positives out of the game.

Player of the Day:

3 points – Xavier Green – Fine goal, good decision-making and involved in most of Wests’ best moments

2 points – Nando Pijnaker – Defensive rock, alongside Erik, making several crucial blocks and interceptions

1 point – Elijah Just – Impressive all-round display, even when reverting to left-back