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Big day for Sydney clubs in A-League

By Chris Pike
13 January 2013 08:08PM EST

IT was a big day in the A-League for Sydney with Western Sydney winning to open up a handy gap in fourth position and Sydney FC also notching three points to get off the bottom of the ladder.

The Western Sydney Wanderers travelled to Westpac Stadium and recorded a tremendous 2-0 victory over the Wellington Phoenix while at Allianz Stadium, Sydney FC snatched a last gasp win over Melbourne Heart 2-1.

The Wanderers now sit safely in fourth position on the A-League table with a six-point gap back to fifth-placed Newcastle Jets while the Sky Blues got off the bottom of the ladder at the expense of the Phoenix.

It took the Wanderers until late in the piece to get on top of the Phoenix, but a goal to Nikolai Topor-Stanley in the 71st minute and then a second to Labinot Haliti in the 82nd secured the rookie club's eighth win of the season to date from 16 matches.

Last time the two teams met, in similarly challenging conditions six weeks ago, the Phoenix stole a 1-0 win. This time, Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic said the Wanderers knew how to win.

"The conditions were difficult - we had that last time we played here, and we didn't come away with anything," Popovic said.

"Our performances have been very good, but we've been matching it with the results which is not always the case in football, where you can play well and lose. We've been able to put the two together, which is difficult."

"It was an even first half, but in the second half, our performance in midfield was very good. Once we got hold in the midfield, it was only a matter of time until we got a goal. We dominated a lot of the possession and we made the most of our opportunities."

Wellington coach Ricki Herbert was left disappointed with his team's first-half effort in creating opportunities but failing to finish.

"It was a game of two halves. I hate that adage, but things looked good for us in the first half, but we weren't good enough in the second half," Herbert said.

"We're not scoring - the chances were there today and we weren't ruthless enough to put them away."

Melbourne Heart got the jump on Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium thanks to a Richard Garcia goal in the 24th minute in front of a solid crowd of 13,125.

For much of the contest the Heart looked set for a victory that would have taken them up to fifth-place on the table, but the Sky Blues hung in there and eventually scored through Brett Emerton in the 85th minute and then got the match-winner in the 93rd thanks to Rhyan Grant.

Sydney FC's Houdini act against the Heart has Sky Blues coach Frank Farina feeling his players have learnt to toughen up when the chips are down.

Farina, though, says it will count for nothing if they can't back it up with another when they host the Phoenix next week.

"I said that these next two home games we have to take maximum points. The first part of the jigsaw is in so if we can beat Wellington next week then we can maybe talk about a possible push for the finals," Farina said.

"I've tried to drum into these players 'you've got to play for 90 minutes and if you do that you'll always have a chance'.

"It's a slow process but I think they're starting to see that against Perth, against the Central Coast and again here now if they're prepared to really work hard and keep going even when you're down the rewards can come.

"If they buy into that mentality, you've got a formidable side on your hands. We ground out a result again and it was purely down to the players not dropping their heads and giving up."

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