JASON TRIFIRO was recalled to Western Sydney's starting line-up and had an early chance to repay coach Tony Popovic's faith against the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday night.
Trifiro received the ball 25 metres from goal and lined up to shoot but jinked and turned his marker to surge into the box. He unleashed a stinging left-foot shoot that a well-positioned Mathew Ryan comfortably contained.
Mariners striker Daniel McBreen's shot from 20 metres out was deflected for a corner. Zac Anderson rose the highest from the resulting kick to meet the ball only six metres out but he blazed his powerful header high and wide of Covic's goal.
The Wanderers began to find their rhythm after the quarter-hour mark and as their confidence grew, so did their aggression. Right-back Jerome Polenz became the first player to enter the book at 17 minutes after a lunge from behind on Mile Sterjovski.
Mariners defender Pedj Bojic responded seconds later with a powerful volley from the edge of the area but he couldn't control his shot and sent the ball sailing over the bar.
The Wanderers were incensed with referee Chris Beath when Joey Gibbs was sent crashing to the turf by Trent Sainsbury when through on goal in the 26th minute. Gibbs was hauled down by the last defender, Sainsbury, but Beath brandished a yellow card when perhaps a red was more deserving.
A flash of brilliance by Shinji Ono created a chance for the Wanderers to break the deadlock after 35 minutes. The Japanese star sliced a clever half volley cross that caught the Mariners defence napping in the box. His powerful pass narrowly evaded the outstretched Gibbs only metres out from goal.
As the Wanderers began to tighten their grip on the match, Mariners stand-in captain, Mike McGlinchey, broke away from Shannon Cole on the right flank to burst through on goal. But, the Kiwi international skewed his shot wide from inside the box.
Just as the Wanderers resumed their dominance, McBreen stuck a dagger into the hosts' hearts with his 11th goal of the season. The veteran striker danced his way through Polenz and Nikolai Topor-Stanley inside the box before calmly slotting the ball into the far corner of the net.