Western United claimed another big win against Melbourne Victory, defeating its rivals 2-1 in an engrossing derby at AAMI Park.
A tight first-half saw United into the break with the lead after Noah Botic opened the scoring just before the interval, but Bruno Fornaroli hit back for Victory right after the restart.
United was able to weather a period of Victory momentum to craft a wonderful winning goal, tallying up the passes before Aleksandar Prijovic provided a devastating.
The win was a third in succession for United and propels the team up to seventh place on the table, just two points shy of the top six.
John Aloisi made just one change to the starting line-up with Prijovic coming back into the XI in place of James Troisi, who missed out with a hamstring injury.
Jamie Young made his 50th Isuzu UTE A-League appearance for the Club, becoming the quickest player to get there having reached the milestone without missing a single game.
Prijovic and Botic showed an immediate understanding up front, carving out the first chance of the game as the former picked out the latter with a cross, but Botic couldn’t quite keep his header underneath the crossbar.
Having signed a new deal during the week, Botic was in the mood and had another headed chance soon after, this time with the ball coming from Ben Garuccio on the opposite flank.
Neither side was able to consistently put the opposition defence under any sustained pressure, as Victory flashed a couple of shots over the crossbar while Connor Pain came close with another headed chance.
Garuccio was in fine form down the left-hand side and turned an interception into a strong run and cross just past the half hour mark, requiring a last-ditch clearance from Victory to deny Prijovic getting to Botic’s cushioned header across goal.
Victory’s first shot on target followed suit when Nishan Velupillay found space on the right wing, but his shot was from an improbable angle and Young saved comfortable with his feet to put it out for a corner.
Whilst not entirely dominant, United maintained an edge in the contest and broke the deadlock just before the break, just as was the case the last time the teams met.
It was down to a lovely team move that started with an outstanding challenge from Garuccio, was helped along by Prijovic and ended with Pain’s exquisite ball across the box being turned in by Botic at the back post.
Victory needed to respond coming out of half-time and did so in style as Bruno Fornaroli bent a free-kick up and over the wall and into the net as Young could only manage to get a fingertip on it.
That gave the home side a much stronger standing in the game and they began to feed off the momentum, enjoying longer spells of possession than they managed in the first half.
Victory’s double change at the break helped turn the tide of the match as Rai Marchan was able to gain more control in midfield and Fernando Romero injected pace and guile into their attack.
The game turned into a series of transition moments shortly after the hour mark with a spell of counter-attacks on counter-attacks, but an overall lack of decisive quality around either box meant no further goals were added.
That was until United gained a footing on the ball and began patiently keeping possession across the backline and midfield.
Neil Kilkenny found the penetrating pass with a long switch to find Pain who put in another pinpoint delivery to allow Prijovic to sweep the ball into the bottom corner.
That long spell of possession and the sucker punch at the end of it took the sting out of Victory’s momentum and United was able to settle back into the contest until the closing stages.
Naturally, United began to sit further back while Victory threw numbers forward but United’s defence held firm to deny any clear cut chances and hold on to an important win.