Western United was left wondering how it didn’t pick up three points in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men on Sunday evening, going down 3-1 to Adelaide United.
Despite creating a number of big chances and holding the majority of the possession, the Green and Black could not avoid defeat in Ballarat.
Lachie Wales scored the side’s first goal since Round 1 just after half-time to equalise after Ben Halloran’s opener, but Adelaide struck twice in quick succession to regain the ascendancy.
John Aloisi will take plenty of positives out of the performance and his side will look to go again in Ballarat next weekend against Wellington Phoenix.
There were three changes to the starting XI as John Aloisi shuffled his pack slightly, welcoming Jacob Tratt back into the defence after he had missed the previous two matches with a hamstring injury.
Ramy Najjarine and Nikita Rukavytsya came in for their first Western United starts to shake up the front line, while Noah Botic took a place on the bench after his exploits with the Olyroos during the week.
As has been the case in the last couple of games, Western United started the game with great intensity and looked to get immediately on the front foot.
Despite Tom Heward-Belle being drawn into a smart save from Ben Halloran in the third minute, the home side brought most the early attacking impetus.
Rukavytsya and Najjarine were both sharp in the opening stages and Wales appeared up for the contest, breaking Adelaide’s defence on a couple of occasions.
One instance saw him denied by Joe Gauci as the Adelaide goalkeeper flung out a sharp right foot, and the next time Gauci needed some extra help from his defence to clear Wales’ lobbed effort before it crossed the goal line.
The Reds’ shot stopper was in fine form, thwarting another United effort to push away a Josh Risdon header and with their quality going forward, Adelaide had their Socceroo to thank for keeping the scores level.
The visitors were able to withstand the pressure and take a chance at the other end when Halloran cut inside from the left and finished well into the bottom corner from outside the box.
United continued to control the bulk of possession but needed Heward-Belle to make another top save to deny Luka Jovanovic just before half-time, leaving the deficit at one.
Western United again started well from the beginning of play and set about finding an equaliser, doing just that within 10 minutes of the restart.
The finish was something of a mess but the construction of the move was swift and decisive as the Green and Black went from one end to the other.
Wales laid it off to Najjarine in the box and after the No.7’s initial effort was blocked, Wales stayed persistent and bundled the ball into the net.
United had finally found the net and had reward for its positive play, which made it even more difficult when Adelaide went 2-1 and 3-1 up within 10 minutes.
Just three minutes after Wales’ goal, Alexandar Popovic headed in a cross from Zach Clough after a short corner and Luka Jovanovic promptly extended the lead with a smart finish at the near post from Halloran’s ball in.
Western United never stopped creating and had a number of big looks at goal – Riku Danzaki had a goal bound header blocked at close quarters and Gauci later stopped the Japanese from rounding him with a strong left arm.
Gauci made another excellent save to deny Wales in a one-on-one before Wales, who consistently got in behind Adelaide’s defence, was thwarted right at the last minute by recovering defenders after he got around Gauci in the box.
There were a host of other chances that were blocked before they could reach the target as it became increasingly apparent that this wasn’t to be the Green and Black’s day in Ballarat.