Western United have made a big statement coming from two goals behind to upset Melbourne Victory in a five-goal thriller at Marvel Stadium.
Any signs of stage fright were quickly squashed as Mark Rudan’s side rectified a slow start to record their most significant win yet, in front of 20,865 people at Marvel Stadium.
When push came to shove it was Western United’s experienced players who stood up, giving the vocal contingent of away supporters plenty to be excited about as they drew first blood in this new rivalry.
Victory’s woes were exacerbated with Kristijan Dobras being replaced in the 67th minute due to injury, with captain Ola Toivonen also spending time on the sidelines receiving treatment.
Mark Rudan described the Victory as the league’s benchmark during the week and the home side wasted little time in making their presence known to the league’s newcomers.
It was Toivonen who got this derby going in sixth minute, showcasing his quality in placing the ball into the bottom corner – beating the outstretched Fillip Kurto to give his side the early lead, with Kristijan Dobras providing the assist.
The home fans barely had time to sit down before the Victory doubled their advantage.
This time it was Toivonen providing the assist, repaying Dobras the favour by finding the Austrian with a pass across the box, resulting in the 27-year-old scoring his first goal in Victory colours.
Going behind for the second week in a row Western United needed a lifter and found it in the form of their captain.
While Lawrence Thomas did well to keep out Alessandro Diamanti’s 30-yard set-piece, the Italian would not be denied a second time with Diamanti pouncing on a loose ball at the top of the box in the 16th minute to pull one back for his side with a well-hit attempt, giving Thomas no chance.
Victory’s early dominance was then nullified completely in the 29th minute as a James Donachie own goal completed Western United’s comeback. A pin-point Scott McDonald cross landed on the head of Josh Risdon at the back post which would have fallen to Besart Berisha, but instead bounced off a sliding Donachie into the goal.
Buoyed by the shift in momentum, Western United continued to take the fight to Victory and nearly went into the break in front.
The Victory breathed a sigh of relief on the cusp of the break, as Scott McDonald wound back the clock with a long-ranged attempt which struck the post.
Albeit the break did little to take the wind out of the visitors’ sails, with Western United taking the lead six minutes into the second half.
McDonald was rewarded for his persistence with his attempt lobbing Thomas after taking a deflection off the knee of Leigh Broxham in the 51st minute, finishing off an impressive build-up which saw Berisha, Panagiotis Kone and McDonald all involved.
The 36-year-old nearly added a second six minutes later with Thomas smothering McDonald’s low strike across his body – keeping Victory in the game.
The Victory then had a golden chance of their own in the 59th minute with Toivonen landing a cross from a set-piece onto the head of an unmarked Thomas Deng, who saw his header fly wide of the post.
An injury to Dobras saw the Austrian replaced with Kenny Athiu, who nearly equalised in the 78th minute with a powerful header from the penalty spot which just went wide.
But no matter what the Victory threw this night belonged to the West, as the visitors picked up their most significant three points yet.