17/04/2024

Milos Ninkovic proved he can be more than a role player for his new club. (Image: Western Sydney Wanderers FC)

Milos Ninkovic has proven he’s still got plenty of football left in him, with the 37-year-old putting in a masterful display in his first game in Wanderers colours.

The attacking midfielder was amongst one of the top contributors for his side in their winning effort, and though he didn’t make a goal contribution, he was certainly lively.

Ninkovic was effective in possession, finishing the game with a pass completion rate of 86 per cent, and registering three shots on goal.

His two successful dribbles in addition to not being dispossessed the entirety of the game showed he can still be impactful and hasn’t lost his touch in what would be considered the back-end of his career.

Defensively he batted hard, with three recoveries. Winning six of his seven ground duels, he proved to be a nightmare match up for the Glory throughout the afternoon.

And though he didn’t play out the full 90 minutes, he certainly proved he was more than capable of putting in a shift when called upon.

Speaking post-game, Wanderers boss Marko Rudan addressed the talk that Ninkovic was no longer capable of holding a starting position and was only valuable if he came off the bench in the second half.

Rudan backed in the Serbian, saying that he’s a quality player and pundits will be writing him off at their own peril.

“Ninko is a special footballer, I think there was a lot of talk during the off-season about him, he’s very determined to make people eat their words,” Rudan said post game.

“It’s fantastic the more that’s said about him, because he’s very motivated, it’s a new lease of life for him, he’s starting at zero again.

“There’s a lot of talk from around the place that he’s a 30-minute player, but he showed up a lot of people today and that’s only the first game… he’s only going to get better and stronger for us as far as I’m concerned.

“He’s still one of the best if not the best [number] ten in the league.”

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Rudan was also complimentary of fellow signee Kusini Yengi, who was solid in his first appearance for Western Sydney.

Having been predominantly utilised as a striker during his time under Carl Veart at Adelaide United, the 23-year-old was positioned on the left wing for the Wanderers, having showed he’s a dynamic player who can also play out wide as well as up top.

Though finishing the game with a successful dribbles rate of 40 per cent, he had a pass completion rate of 93 per cent. He also proved to be strong one-on-one, winning 100 per cent of his aerial duels for the game. Yengi would also push forward and finish the game with two shots on goal.

Following an encouraging performance, Rudan appluaded Yengi’s versatility saying he’s got the skill set to be a dangerous player wherever he’s position on the pitch.

“He [Yengi] is a great athlete, a fantastic one [on] one player… he played a lot there [as a winger] during the offseason,” he said.

“We play with two [number] nines and I think our balance was better with him out wide, it’s nothing foreign for him. If you’ve watched his games, particularly with the Olyroos in the offseason, it’s where he plays.

“He’s willing to do whatever it takes, he’s worked extremely hard… he’s never had a full pre-season so we’ve guided him through the pre-season and he’s never missed a beat.

“Every single session he fronted up and showed his mentality as well. I know there’s a lot of talk about Kus, but Kus has missed a lot of games in the last four [or] five years, and we value him highly at this football club.

“We put together a program for him. [He’s an] extremely professional young man… he’ll do whatever it takes for his team whether we play two up front or one up front.”

The Wanderers will look to continue their strong start to the season as they travel to face Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday, October 15.

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