Western United picked up a massive three points in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men run in, defeating Adelaide United 1-0 on Saturday evening.
Connor Pain scored the only goal of the game after a swift attacking move on the stroke of half-time, giving United a priceless lead to protect in the second period.
A mixture of Jamie Young, United’s defence and the woodwork kept out Adelaide’s late advances as the Green and Black held onto an important win in the race for finals football.
John Aloisi made two changes to his starting XI as Aleksandar Prijovic and Tomoki Imai both returned to the line-up, replacing Noah Botic and Leo Lacroix respectively.
Dylan Pierias started for the third match in a row while James Troisi returned to the bench after more than a month on the sidelines. Alessandro Diamanti missed the clash with a knock to his ribs.
Western United started positively but Adelaide naturally took the ascendancy with a strong home crowd getting behind the team.
Ben Halloran came close 10 minutes in with a side-footed volley at the back post, but the effort flashed wide of the post and United got away unharmed.
Aside from a brief scare when Young fumbled a high ball from Louis D’Arrigo just after the half hour mark, United was able to largely limit the quality of chances Adelaide were able to create.
The Green and Black then took the lead right before the half-time interval after a swift forward move, immediately after Young had made a save from Craig Goodwin in the opposite box.
Josh Risdon picked up the ball on the right-hand side and after evading one defender with a touch inside, the No.19 shaped a beautiful delivery on his left foot towards the back post.
Prijovic was arriving at the back stick and nudged the ball perfectly back across goal for Pain to tap home from virtually on the goal line as the ball narrowly evaded Joe Gauci’s grasp.
Having defended well throughout the first half, the sucker punch right before the break came at the perfect time for Aloisi’s men, giving them a lead to protect in the second period.
With Adelaide having not been beaten in 12 matches, United knew how prized the half-time lead was and set about protecting it after the interval.
But the Green and Black were still keen to get forward and very nearly got a second when Connor Pain pulled the ball back into the box.
Minutes after coming on, Isaias’ outstretched boot might well have sent the ball into the bottom corner of his own net, but Gauci was able to collapse on the ball and spare his teammate’s blushes.
Pierias and Lachie Wales were looking to stretch Adelaide’s defence in behind and nearly combined for a goal just before the hour when the later searched for the former at the back post. The initial delivery was cut out but Pierias persisted to get a shot on goal, which was deflected over the bar and out for a corner.
Pierias was involved in everything for the Green and Black and couldn’t believe he didn’t score minutes later when he streamed away from two Adelaide defenders on the right wing.
The No.5’s effort bobbled up from Ryan Kitto’s attempted block and Gauci adjusted magnificently to save at close quarters as the ball seemed destined for the back of the net.
Young saved well from a powerful Hiroshi Ibusuki header but his best save of the match came from Nestory Irankunda with less than 10 minutes remaining as he flung his left foot out to deny the Adelaide wonderkid from point blank range.
Adelaide turned up the heat in the final stages and had a number of chances at an equaliser – first Johnny Yull blazed over after a half-cleared corner, and then Lachlan Barr thumped the post with a header from another set piece delivery.
Western United ultimately held its nerve and clung onto a vital three points, keeping the Green and Black right in the mix for finals football with two matches left to play.