Opinion

De Marigny mettle a victory for Wanderers despite derby draw

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ANALYSIS: It was dubbed the "derby with a difference", but in the end, interim Western Sydney Wanderers coach Jean-Paul de Marigny proved nothing has changed.

An eerie, empty Bankwest Stadium served host for the 25th Sydney derby on Saturday night, but that did little to deter the determination displayed by de Marigny's men.

Chasing a historic seasonal clean sweep of derby victories, the Wanderers set out to hassle and hurry the A-League champions, squeezing the time and space Sydney so often enjoy in possession.

Mitch Duke, Simon Cox and Kwame Yeboah led the high-intensity press alongside wing-backs Daniel Georgievski and Tate Russell; the five-man front forcing the likes of Luke Brattan and Alexander Baumjohann back in retreat, albeit briefly.

Having survived the early onslaught relatively unscathed, Corica's crop soon exposed the press with consistent success on the counter-attack.

With the Wanderers pushed high up the field, Kosta Barbarouses and Milos Ninkovic found space deeper in transition and afforded both Brattan and Paulo Retre an outlet beyond the aforementioned front.

Sydney's pace caused persistent problems for the outnumbered two-man midfield of Keanu Baccus and Jordan O'Doherty, and that soon proved costly as the recovering Russell failed to pick up Adam Le Fondre's follow-up effort 10 minutes before half-time.

The goal sent a collective sigh of relief across Sky Blue corners, who, incredibly, had failed to find a breakthrough at the same venue five months earlier.

But for what Markus Babbel earned through luck back then, his successor now had in tactical astuteness and discipline.

Sydney's slight first-half superiority was soon replaced with a second-half display akin to their 4-0 Asian Champions League lesson at Ange Postecoglou's Yokohama F. Marinos last month.

With the press replaced in favour of a more possession-based approach, the Wanderers dominated their cross-town rivals through incessant pressure.

Corica's side were forced to defend with two tight lines of four as a result, and while they did well to restrict space through the middle of the field, they could not contain the Wanderers' width - and it soon told.

De Marigny's decision to replace the at fault and ineffective Russell with Bruce Kamau yielded the equaliser some two minutes later; his ensuing cross leading to a fortuitous finish from Yeboah.

The deserved leveller almost welcomed the winner in the shadows of full-time, but it was not to be as Sydney survived to earn their first derby point since April.

Saturday's draw symbolised the second straight time Corica had lost a tactical tussle with de Marigny, but on this occasion, his players knew it too.

"It was just average," Brattan fumed. "With the quality we've got, we should be a lot better than that."

Such a performance will have impressed Wanderers hierarchy, who will soon have no reason not to reward de Marigny a permanent appointment.

The 56-year-old has given the team an identity and flexible philosophy during his brief time in charge and they are now well within range of a finals berth - something that once seemed inconceivable.

"We caused them a lot of problems in possession of the ball... and they were there for the taking," de Marigny said.

"But I thought without the ball the discipline and desire to win the contest was phenomenal."

Such a desire was clear to see, and while the final derby of the regular season ended in a draw, de Marigny's mettle  in the comeback will go down as a valiant victory.