05/03/2024

Wanderers keep up bright start to the campaign. (Images: Western Sydney Wanderers FC - Twitter)

Though not coming away with all three-points, Marko Rudan believes his side are on the right path following their clash over the Nix.

The Western Sydney Wanderers have shared the points with the Wellington Phoenix in the side’s return fixtures following the World Cup break.

With the Phoenix returning back to their home away from home in Wollongong, the Nix broke the deadlock just after the hour mark through Bozhidar Kraev, though their lead would be short-lived as forward Yeni N’Gbakoto equalised with an incredible freekick from long range not even 20 minutes later to ensure both sides got something out of the game.

Having got themselves level the Wanderers would continue to push inside the final 10 minutes but were unable to find the back of the net. And despite not taking all three points, Wanderers boss Marko Rudan was pleased with how the side finished out the game.

“We haven’t come from behind to get any point so far this season and so the mentality was great and that’s a big positive and I’ll take a lot of positives from that,” Rudan told media post-game.

“I thought we played some really good football, the pitch wasn’t great, but both teams really tried to play [and adapt to the conditions] and that was important as well.

“They’re [Wellington] never easy to play against and going 1-0 down after the sixtieth minute we challenge them…and we were able to get ourselves back in the game and after that we just we continued.

“I thought that there was only going to be the one team that looked like they were going to get the winner and that was us as far as I was concerned and the stats back that up as well.”

Though being dubbed a home game for the Phoenix, the game being played out in the Wanderers’ home state meant Rudan’s men had the crowd behind them. Though the crowd was predominantly part of the Red and Black army, Rudan said it certainly didn’t feel like the ground gave them an edge due to the Phoenix having used the ground as their home venue for the past two seasons due to border closures with New Zealand.

“Fan-wise yes [we had the advantage], but don’t forget this is like their home, they’ve played two consecutive seasons here,” he said.

“They know every blade of grass, they know how the wind goes, they know you know what the nets look like, what the corner posts to do.

“I’ve been in that position [having to play home games outside of our home state] and it’s not the best for Ufuk and for his players having to do that because they’re such a different proposition when Wellington play in Wellington.

“We hadn’t played here before…but we need to change our mentality and we are. We’re going to embrace everything that comes our way, particularly any challenge.”

Having felt his side put in the better showing of the two, Rudan said that the time off during the World Cup break provided an opportunity to work on being more effective in possession.

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In the first game back after the break, Rudan was complimentary with how the side pushed forward while in possession, saying he was pleased with how the side was able to play their style of the game and not stray away.

“The period away from the league allowed us to work on what I believe we needed to get better at, and that’s with the ball,” he said.

“My teams always develop into the season, they continue to grow and I thought we played some really good football with the ball.

“We had a lot of the ball, but Wellington when they play against teams like that [us], you don’t underestimate them because they try to get you into a trap and get you on the counter.

“And that’s what they’ve done with other teams, they try to play out [from the back], they’re a very smart team, they’re well coached and well drilled.

“We just had to make sure that we didn’t get caught into that playing out and get getting caught on the break and that was really pleasing.

Pulling out a favourable result in challenging conditions, Rudan says he’s delighted with the mentality of the squad, feeling the squad has instilled a belief that will make them a hard side to beat.

“We certainly had the better of them, at 1-1 we really went for it and I was really pleased with that. We come up short in the end but certainly, the mentality was the right one,” he said.

“You never want to go down in a game but it happens, you’re going to concede at times but we fought back from that and that’s brilliant,” he said.

“The players now have the belief that they can come back and not just draw like we did tonight, but push on and go for the absolute win.

“Physically we’re in great shape, we’ve worked them really hard in pre-season, very smart with the way we do work with them as well. and like those last 20 minutes, I thought there was just one team that was really putting a lot of pressure on the goal mouth and looking to get that winner”

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