Second-place on the A-League ladder remains up for grabs after Western Sydney and Adelaide United posted their first-ever scoreless draw on Saturday.
Both sides battled it out on a slippery surface at Pirtek Stadium, which was lashed by rain and shaken by thunder from a storm that delayed kick-off by half-an-hour.
Four back-to-back shots from the Wanderers and a free-kick from 25 metres out in the dying minutes drew plenty of cheers and jeers from the 11,000-strong crowd but none were able to break the deadlock.
After being spared a trip to China last week, marquee man Shinji Ono and Socceroos defender Matthew Spiranovic were again rested – coach Tony Popovic hoping to keep them fresh for next Wednesday’s Asian Champions League clash with Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale at home.
There was no such luck for six of the Wanderers’ 11 starters – all of whom had barely 48 hours back on home soil after Thursday’s historic ACL win over Guizhou Renhe.
Ono’s absence was felt up front, the Japanese star’s accuracy and footwork missing in a host of chances created by an effervescent Youssef Hersi and Mark Bridge.
Adelaide dominated possession early in the opening half, but it was the Wanderers who took control of the midfield under the guidance of Aaron Mooy – heaping plenty of pressure on the Reds backline.
Yet both sides struggled to find the finesse needed to hit the back of the net.
Star striker Jeronimo Neumann – who replaced an injured Fabio Ferreira after a high challenge from Wanderer Adam D’Apuzzo – came close to scoring his fifth goal in six A-League appearances upon returning from the break, botching a well-placed cross from Marcelo Carrusca.
Carrusca himself missed a perfect opportunity to pounce on a wayward ball off fullback Nikolai Topor-Stanley, mis-kicking it from the edge of the six-yard box 15 minutes later.
It is the first time in 12 matches the Reds have failed to score a goal – ending a league-high run.
It proved a rather tame evening for Western Sydney attacker Brendon Santalab, who was kept quiet in his 72 minutes and was replaced by young gun Tomi Juric.