Western Sydney capped a remarkable debut A-League season by claiming the Premiers’ Plate with a 3-0 win over the Newcastle Jets on Friday.
A massive contingent of travelling Wanderers fans were on hand to bolster the season-high crowd of 22,518 at Hunter Stadium and they witnessed a wonderful performance as ex-Jet Mark Bridge came back to haunt his old side with two first-half goals.
The Jets attempted a fightback in the second half but the Wanderers defence held firm and Rocco Visconte’s blistering strike sealed a deserved win 10 minutes from time.
The win sees the Wanderers move six points ahead of second-placed Central Coast, with the Mariners likely to now field a youth side in their ‘dead-rubber’ clash against the Melbourne Heart on Saturday.
The loss relegates the Jets to a disappointing eighth place after they enjoyed their best start to a season but they fell away mid-campaign, having struggled for consistency in attack and leaking too many goals.
The night belonged to the Wanderers, who now go into the A-League finals series on the back of a remarkable 12-game unbeaten streak in their debut season.
Unsurprisingly, it was the Wanderers who applied pressure early and they were rewarded when former Jets Tarek Elrich, Labinot Haliti and Bridge combined to open the scoring in just the sixth minute.
Right-back Elrich switched the play to Haliti on the left side of the 18-yard box, his lovely first-time volley going across the face of goal.
Dino Kresinger missed his shot at the near post, allowing Bridge to poke home at the back post to make it 1-0.
The Wanderers doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark when yet another former Jet, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, hoisted a ball forward and Kresinger flicked on a header for Bridge to get in behind Conner Chapman.
Although the striker never really had control, he did enough to keep the ball moving forward and chip it over the oncoming Mark Birighitti for his second goal of the evening.
The Wanderers sealed the match in spectacular fashion when substitute Visconte, who came on for Elrich, fired a blistering 25-metre shot through a crowded penalty area and into the top right corner of the net with 10 minutes to go.