VAR drama mars Wanderers A-League revival

Dec 16, 2017 - 12:01 PM Western Sydney and coach Josep Gombau have emerged from the depths of A-League despair, claiming a first win in 10 games over a nine-man Central Coast.

But Saturday night's 2-0 performance was blighted by more contentious use of the video assistant referee (VAR), which prompted referee Alex King to upgrade two second-half yellow cards to reds for the Mariners' Wout Brama and Jake McGing.

Central Coast coach Paul Okon was at a loss to explain it.

"If both challenges were violent I think we would have seen protests from the Wanderers players and bench ... and there was no reaction," he said.

"The reaction came from the gentleman sitting upstairs.

"If you came to this game tonight and left here no longer in love with football, who could blame you?"

Regardless, the Wanderers' response in Gosford was lively and Brendon Santalab the star of the 2-0 show, complementing his first goal of the season with an assist for Alvaro Cejudo to end the club's six goalless hours of football.

After the selection bombshells of last week's Sydney derby disaster, all eyes were fixed on Gombau's team sheet.

Michael Thwaite, Raul Llorente and Jumpei Kusukami were recalled at the expense of Kearyn Baccus and Robbie Cornthwaite, the captain omitted for missing a training session.

Santalab was himself lucky to receive only yellow for a late challenge on Brama and made his presence equally known in the box.

By the 27th minute he had reason to celebrate.

Mark Bridge outran and out-weaved three defenders before picking out Santalab.

From 20m out, he took two settling touches and swung his right boot with such vigour Ben Kennedy's diving effort was ineffectual.

The Mariners were made to work hard but, under pressure, penetrated their visitors' high press in an agonisingly close chance.

Andrew Hoole pinged the ball to McGing, the right-back floating a cross towards Danny De Silva at the back post, only for Vedran Janjetovic to get the slightest of diverting touches.

A few minutes later, Janjetovic made another vital intervention - an outstretched leap to deny Connor Pain.

Central Coast threatened on the counterattack but Western Sydney made their opportunities count.

Nineteen-year-old Keanu Baccus burst free and gifted an excellent ball to Santalab, whose square slice allowed Cejudo to drive home.

By the time De Silva had bent the ball narrowly wide of the side netting, the Mariners were getting frustrated.

But nothing compared to Okon's fury at the VAR.

The home coach shrieked "Who's up there?" when, after Brama was yellow-carded for scraping Roly Bonevacia's calf, a review led to King changing his decision to red.

The 78th minute brought an similar episode.

McGing was shown yellow for a sliding challenge on Baccus senior before a review resulted in an upgrade to red, triggering an explosion from the Mariners' bench as strength and conditioning coach Balder Berckmans was given his marching orders.

Source: AAP

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