Western United fell to a 4-2 defeat against Sydney FC in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men in an entertaining affair at Allianz Stadium.
Angus Thurgate gave Western United a swift lead when he converted from Lachie Wales’ corner in the fifth minute, but Sydney turned it around before half-time.
Goals from set pieces hurt United as the Sky Blues got out to a 3-1 lead just after the break, but the Green and Black refused to lie down.
Matthew Grimaldi scored his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal to give United a chance of a comeback but Sydney had the final say, adding a fourth on the break in stoppage time to seal all three points.
John Aloisi named an unchanged starting XI to face the Sky Blues as he watched on from the coach’s box with Hayden Foxe leading on the sideline.
Daniel Penha continued in his more central role with Lachie Wales on the right flank just as was the case last week while Sebastian Pasquali earned a second straight start in midfield.
Western United got off to a dream start as Thurgate nodded in his first goal for the Club just five minutes into the match.
He may not ever score an easier one in his career as he ghosted in unchallenged at the back post to apply the finishing touch to Lachie Wales’ menacing delivery from a corner.
That set the tone as United looked comfortable going forward but Sydney’s threat at the other end remained and was highlighted by a ball that flashed across the face of goal but was just missing the finishing touch in the six-yard box.
Penha had an early sighter that knuckled its way just over the crossbar and Luke Brattan drove just wide from the edge of the area before Wales spurned a chance at the back post and Robert Mak drew a fantastic reflex save from Tom Heward-Belle in an entertaining first 25 minutes.
Sydney found their equaliser before the half hour mark as Western United’s point of view as the visitors failed to clear a corner after a couple of attempts, allowing Fabio Gomes to smuggle the ball into the corner.
The home side began to control the majority of possession and started to dictate the play towards the back end of the first half and they turned the game around to take the lead before the break.
It was a goal relatively out of nothing as Noah Botic won the first header to clear a wide free-kick into Joey Lolley’s path, and the Englishman took one to control and a second to fire the ball low and hard and into the bottom right corner.
Riku Danzaki very nearly bent a long-range stunner of his own into the back of the net and Tomoki Imai made a crucial block to deny Mak as United went into half-time with a deficit to overcome.
Western United needed a fast start in the second half but did exactly the opposite as Jack Rodwell scored within two minutes of the restart, heading home at the back post from another corner after Heward-Belle had made a good save from Gomes.
United’s keeper was in the thick of it early on with another smart stop to push Anthony Caceres’ long-range effort around the post before leaping to deny Gomes again from the ensuing set piece.
Just as Sydney were again asserting their dominance in the flow of play, United had a massive chance to get back in it when Penha sent Wales through on goal, but Botic couldn’t convert at the back post when Wales cut the ball back to him.
The home side were intent on committing men forward in search of more goals and United was swift on the break whenever given the opportunity as Wales came close moments later, again set up by Penha.
Despite being a two-goal game, the pitch was spread wide open as both sides traded counter attacks and bursts of possession – Lolley perhaps should have had his second when he and Gomes bore down on Imai and Jacob Tratt, but he directed his shot straight at Heward-Belle.
The longer United went without converting one of its chances, the more comfortable Sydney got with taking the sting out of the game and seeing it out safely on home turf.
However, United wasn’t going to go down without a fight and youngster Grimaldi made an immediate impact off the bench, firing into the roof of the net from Josh Risdon’s cut-back for his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal.
The Green and Black then set about staging a comeback and Michael Ruhs, whose quick throw-in had instigated Grimaldi’s goal, blasted one into the back of the net but the offside flag promptly halted any celebrations.
As the visitors poured men forward, Sydney had space on the counter and clinched the win in stoppage time when Lolley fired spectacularly into the top corner.