A first half blitz has ended a horror three weeks for Western United, who came from behind to defeat Melbourne Victory in front of a record crowd.
Western United may have conceded first for the seventh consecutive match but it mattered little, as three first half goals ended a three-match losing streak and sealed their second win against the Victory, in front of 10,128 at GMHBA Stadium.
Fans were left feeling a sense of déjà vu as Western United put three past the Victory in a free-flowing opening half, filled to the brink with clinical moments of play.
With both sides in need of points ahead of a busy Christmas period and going off their last meeting – it was no surprise to see the intensity as rife as it was.
Achilles soreness saw Scott McDonald replaced by 19-year-old Jerry Skotadis in the line-up for his A-League debut, while Storm Roux replaced Anthony Lesiotis in the Victory line-up.
The Victory flexed their muscle early, creating several chances which saw Robbie Kruse’s fourth minute attempt parried out for a corner, which saw Ola Toivonen’s left-footed swing blocked by a sea of bodies.
The visitors were rewarded for their early dominance as Andrew Nabbout fired a bullet across his body, past Filip Kurto and into the inside of the side netting for the opener in the 14th minute.
It was route-one football from the Victory, as Jakob Poulsen’s pass out of midfield allowed the Socceroo to break from just over the halfway line and into the box with three defenders trailing.
But this sequel was doing its best to remain true to the original, as Western United responded almost immediately.
It was two former Victory players who combined for the equaliser in the 17th minute, as Connor Pain’s cross found Besart Berisha’s head, with the Kosovan international finding the back of the net and keeping a lid on his celebrations.
The déjà vu then well and truly kicked in when Alessandro Diamanti picked out his former Bologna teammate Panagiotis Kone for Western United’s second goal.
Kone – who was playing much further up the pitch – gave his side the lead in the 24th minute, beating Thomas with a right-footed flick from the in-swinging Diamanti set-piece for his second goal of the season.
Having been on the end of this earlier in the season – the Victory went into overdrive creating several golden opportunities, only to be denied by just about everyone and everything.
Poulen’s 28th minute set-piece had the Victory fans thinking they had equalised, only for them to realise it merely struck the side netting.
Meanwhile, Kurto was doing his bit to keep out the surging visitors – tipping Toivonen’s attempt from the penalty spot over the crossbar – resulting in a chaotic set piece which saw James Donachie strike the post and Pain clear a Toivonen header off the line.
But it was Western United who had the last laugh on the cusp of half-time, with Berisha putting away his side’s third to deflate the Victory heading into the break.
While it was Berisha who headed the goal in the 43rd minute, it was Risdon who received all the plaudits from his bench, with the Socceroo providing an assist worthy of several replays and one even Diamanti would have been proud of.
The Italian international then added a goal of his own after his 54th minute set-piece from just outside the area just went over the crossbar.
With time running out for the Victory, the visitors needed something special.
Enter Josh Hope – coming on for Nabbout – who shifted his way into the box from the right wing to square the ball to Toivonen who saw another certain goal denied by one of the saves of the season.
Toivonen’s attempt – directed at the centre of the open goal – was kept out by the defiant palm of Kurto, who seemed almost unbeatable after the 14th minute.
The win sees Western United finish in the round in the top four ahead of a trip to Brisbane next Friday night, while the Victory returns to Melbourne to host the Wellington Phoenix.
Featured Image: Getty Images
Western United 3 (Berisha 17′ & 43′, Kone 24′)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Nabbout 14′)
Filip Kurto (GK), Aaron Calver, Andrew Durante , Ersan Gulum, Panagiotis Kone, Dario Jertec (Apostolos Stamatelopoulos 70’), Josh Risdon (Brendan Hamill 66’), Alessandro Diamanti, Connor Pain, Jerry Skotadis, Besart Berisha (Dylan Pierias 83’)
Ryan Scott, Valentino Yuel, Max Burgess, Jonathan Aspropotamitis
Lawrence Thomas (GK), Adama Traore, James Donachie, Leigh Broxham, Storm Roux (Anthony Lesiotis 46’), Migden Basha, Jakob Poulsen, Elvis Kamsoba (Kenny Athiu 68′), Andrew Nabbout (Josh Hope 72’), Ola Toivonen, Robbie Kruse
Brandon White, Corey Brown, Ben Carrigan, Jay Barnett