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Wanderers survive late push from 10-man Reds to notch slender win on the road

Ten-man Adelaide United rallied late but couldn’t claim a share of the spoils as Western Sydney Wanderers clung on to notch a 2-1 win at Coopers Stadium on Saturday night.

Two first-half goals to Nicolas Milanovic put Western Sydney in command and after a 75th-minute red card to Ben Halloran, the visitors looked set to cruise to the final whistle before Luka Jovanovic’s deficit-halving goal in the 94th minute.

The Reds launched a desperate push for an equalising goal but referee Alex King put an end to the comeback hopes with the final whistle after 12 minutes of additional time.

Halloran’s dismissal came as a result of a challenge on Wanderers full-back Aidan Simmons which referee Alex King deemed a red-card offence.

The Reds have now lost four of their last five games. Western Sydney meantime moved up to fourth on the Isuzu UTE A-League table with the win away from home.

Milanovic was the beneficiary of a pinpoint cross off the right wing from Aidan Simmons as he opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Simmons’ sweeping delivery bypassed four Adelaide defenders and Milanovic latched onto the ball at the back post to bury his header into the bottom-left corner.

The hosts would have found a leveller through Halloran if not for the quick reflexes of Daniel Margush, whose left-handed block at his near post deprived the Reds winger.

Milanovic made matters worse for Adelaide in the 34th minute and his second goal of the first half was far too easy to convert. Lachlan Brook’s delivery from out wide was placed between a pair of Reds defenders but Milanovic guessed the flight of the ball best, getting in between and scoring with his head once again.

James Delianov escaped calamity soon after and it was Alexander Badolato letting the Adelaide keeper get away with one after intercepting a loose pass high up the pitch. Badolato took one touch into the box and his second touch was a shot that ballooned over the crossbar.

Dissatisfied with his side’s first-half performance, Adelaide head coach Carl Veart looked to his bench and brought teenage winger Nestory Irankunda into the contest in place of defender Javi Lopez.

Irankunda was busy in the early knockings of the second stanza but down the other end Brook went within centimetres of a remarkable solo goal; having skipped past one Reds defender with his first touch, Brook played the ball through the legs of Panagiotis Kikianis before chipping the ball over Delianov and only just missing the bottom-right corner.

With just 15 minutes left of regular time, Adelaide were reduced to 10 men when Halloran received a red card for a challenge on Simmons.

Simmons had skipped past Isaías in midfield but Halloran closed the Wanderers full-back down; his attempt to stop the attack resulted in a tangling of legs and Halloran landed his studs on both of Simmons’ legs.

Paramount+ co-commentator Robbie Cornthwaite gave his thoughts on King’s decision to dismiss Halloran in the moments following the red card.

“I must say, I was a little bit surprised at first look,” Cornthwaite said. “I mean, he’s just clipped him, hasn’t he?”

“It’s a foul, I think it’s a yellow card,” commentator Simon Hill replied. “Is it worthy of a red? I guess it’s setting up an attack for the Wanderers.

“He has got him very, very high,” Cornthwaite added.

“I don’t think it’s a case of him trying to clip him to bring him down; I think he’s just trod on him. I think he wanted to foul him, I don’t think he was trying to clip him with the feet, I think he was trying to pull him back and somehow he’s managed to stand on the back of his calf.

“I” think a red is a little bit harsh. I’m surprised he’s given a red, to be honest, he’s obviously seen it as a bit of a stamp.”

Jovanovic set up a grandstand finish to the game with a 94th-minute strike which cut the Wanderers’ lead in half; Jovanovic tucked the ball past Margush with composure after Irankunda’s deft through pass in close quarters.