Western United mounted a sensational comeback in New Zealand on Sunday afternoon, claiming its first win of the season with a 3-2 victory over Wellington Phoenix.
The hosts held a 2-0 lead with goals either side of half-time from Oskar Zawada and Bozhidar Kraev, but United changed the game from the substitute’s bench.
After Jacob Tratt pulled one back with an impudent header, Aleksandar Prijovic and Alessandro Diamanti entered the fray and decided the contest.
Prijovic drew the Green and Black level in the 84th minute with a bullet header before Diamanti whipped a delightful, swerving free-kick past Oliver Sail in the dying moments.
Rhys Bozinovski came in for his maiden Isuzu UTE A-League Men start, replacing the injured Steven Lustica in midfield, the only chance to the starting XI from last week’s match.
United was boosted by the return of star striker Prijovic to the bench, while Diamanti, Nicolas Milanovic, Dylan Pierias added further firepower in reserve.
Wellington controlled much of the early possession and created the biggest chance of the opening 15 minutes with a direct ball in behind, but some last ditch defending between Ben Garuccio, Leo Lacroix and Neil Kilkenny saw the visitors remove the danger.
United put together its best passage of play soon after with a well worked move down the left hand side that resulted in a corner, but Wellington showed their prowess on the counter attack with a swift move up the other end after clearing their lines.
The hosts couldn’t punish United on that occasion but did so just a couple of minutes later when Lacroix’s interception fell fortunately for Zawada to score his first goal in the competition.
Jamie Young was needed just before the half hour mark with a strong diving save from Callan Elliot’s drive from the top of the box.
Phoenix had a big chance to double the lead before half-time when Kosta Barbarouses stepped up to the penalty spot, but Young stood tall to make his second penalty save of the season and keep the deficit at one.
United immediately looked more comfortable on the ball in the second half and carved out a significant opening soon after the restart, but Sail spread himself well to deny Lachie Wales at close quarters.
Despite the improved performance, Wellington found a second goal on the hour mark when Kraev’s found the back of the net with a deflection taking it past Young.
The two-goal lead didn’t last long, though, as Tratt found his first goal in United colours with a sharp header after Connor Pain had flicked on Kilkenny’s corner at the near post.
With the one-goal deficit still intact, Western United continued to go in search of an equaliser and brought on Prijovic and Diamanti to help do so.
The pair almost combined straight away when Diamanti picked out Prijovic with a long ball, and while the Serbian’s touch was off on that occasion, it wasn’t in the 84th minute.
The No.99 peeled off at the back post while United exchanged passes on the left-wing and he was alive to thump home Ben Garuccio’s pinpoint cross with an excellent header into the roof of the net.
It was ultimately Diamanti’s prerogative to win the game, scoring his first goal of the season with an outstanding direct free-kick deep into stoppage time, lifting it up and over the wall and into the corner to complete an incredible comeback.