Shinji Ono plays his final game for the Wanderers on Wednesday. Image courtesy of The Daily Telegraph/Gregg Porteous
Shinji Ono will play his last game for the Western Sydney Wanderers when they host Hiroshima Sanfrecce in their second-leg ACL tie.
Fresh off their grand final defeat to Brisbane Roar, a Wanderers team struggling mentally and physically were outclassed by Hiroshima last Wednesday night in Japan. Tony Popovic’s men had a short turn-around and were behind the eight ball from the first whistle. Down 2-0, hope was restored when Tomi Juric slotted a penalty late in the match, but that was cancelled out in the dying seconds. The Wanderers' defence failed to deal with a free kick and the result leaves Hiroshima as firm favourites to progress into the quarter finals, a feat no A-league team has managed before. Wednesday night’s match will be the last time fans see star playmaker Shinji Ono in action for the club. The former Japanese international, who has 56 international caps to his name, will end his career back in Japan and bring down the final curtain on what has been a successful two years for the A-league newcomers.
Hiroshima will most likely play a defensive game and focus on weathering an expected Wanderers attacking onslaught. Tony Popovic will field a side far stronger than last week but Hiroshima, as they proved last week, will be tough to crack and look menacing on the counter. Nikolai Topor-Stanley will again watch on from the sidelines with a knee injury, but the Wanderers will welcome back a host of first team players, including star striker Mark Bridge. Hiroshima, reigning J-league champions, travel to Sydney with no noticeable absentees. Naoki Ishihara bagged a brace in the first leg for Sanfrecce and will look to add to his three ACL goals on Wednesday.
All eyes will be on Shinji Ono for this match. He will be out to make one final impression for Wanderers fans and no doubt his team mates will be eager to see him off with a win. Ono could play a pivotal role for Western Sydney, in a match where they are surprisingly favourites even after last week’s loss. Expect the Wanderers to attack from the first whistle and entertain in front of a big crowd at Pirtek Stadium, but the 3-1 aggregate score line could prove to be too much for the them to claw back, even with a full strength squad.
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