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Ono on song as Wanderers climb to third
By Liam FitzGibbon
21:52 AEST Tue Jan 1 2013

A Shinji Ono-inspired Western Sydney confirmed their credentials as genuine A-League title contenders as the Japanese playmaker freakishly delivered a 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory.

The Wanderers' marquee star scored brilliant goals in either half in front of 13,659 fans at Parramatta Stadium on Tuesday as the Wanderers leapfrogged the Victory into third spot.

While many had tipped Tony Popovic's hastily-assembled side to struggle in their debut season, they find themselves well and truly in the title race after four wins from their past five games.

And while the competition rookies have had many contributors, Ono has been the driving force behind their recent form.

He opened the scoring on Tuesday with remarkable piece of technical skill in the 42nd minute and delivered again with a cracking late winner after Victory substitute Spase Dilevski had equalised seven minutes earlier.

While the 33 year-old started the season slowly compared to fellow high-profile recruits Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey, a fully fit Ono is now arguably looking the pick of the marquee players.

"He's a special player and he's been a special player for this football club since he first arrived," Popovic said.

"We saw from the first moment he got here the talent he has, it just took time for him to get his match fitness.

"We're delighted for him. He's a great player, a great man and a perfect fit for this football club."

After resting a host of key players in last week's 1-1 draw with Perth, Popovic made seven changes to his starting line-up with Ono, Mark Bridge and Youssouf Hersi among those returning.

While the Wanderers were well on top in the first half it took until the 42nd minute to break through.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley headed the ball down field and Ono collected it on the volley, juggled it twice to beat a hapless Adrian Leijer and finished superbly from the edge of the box.

The Victory lacked bite in attack but looked as though they may steal a point when Dilevski created something out of nothing with a low drive from just outside the box that beat Wanderers 'keeper Ante Covic.

But Ono, playing on after copping an ankle knock, stepped up again with his fourth goal of the season, a curling, long-range effort that sent a passionate home crowd in raptures.

The performance sets up a mouth-watering clash with leaders Central Coast at Parramatta Stadium on Sunday but Popovic is doing his best to dampen the hype, refusing to say his team was capable of winning the championship.

"Not now, not after 14 games," Popovic said.

"I think it's still showing that everyone's beating everyone.

"We're in a good position at the halfway mark but we've got a lot of work to do."

Making matters worse for the Victory was a potentially serious knee injury to midfielder Gui Finkler in the 10th minute and coach Ange Postecoglou said he would undergo scans.

The coach paid tribute to Ono and the Wanderers but felt his side was below its best.

"We've got certain basic principles in our game that we've been really good at following and our discipline in doing that's been getting better but tonight was poor," he said.