Western United suffered a 3-1 loss to Melbourne City in its final home match in the 2022/23 Isuzu UTE A-League Men season.
Jamie Maclaren stole the show, scoring a hat-trick for City and breaking the all-time record for the most goals scored by an individual in the A-Leagues.
Dylan Pierias did find the net himself to leave the scores level at 1-1 at half-time, but City took control in the second period to claim the win.
John Aloisi originally named an unchanged starting XI, opting for the same line-up that secured an impressive 1-0 win over Adelaide United last week.
But Tongo Doumbia went down with a calf strain in the warm-up, seeing Sebastian Pasquali elevated to an Isuzu UTE A-League Men starting line-up for the first time since May 28, 2021.
Michael Ruhs then came onto the bench as a result, a bench that already included the returning Alessandro Diamanti and Neil Kilkenny as reserve options for Aloisi’s midfield.
Much of the opening exchanges saw the teams feeling the contest out rather than wrestling the ascendancy as both sides swapped spells of possession early on.
Josh Risdon sent a teasing cross towards the back post after United’s best early move but it just evaded Aleksandar Prijovic and Connor Pain, and City capitalised minutes later.
It was a play almost identical in its design as City worked the ball to the right-hand side, allowing Andrew Nabbout to whip the ball into the danger area.
The cross flashed past Tomoki Imai and despite missing his header, Maclaren’s positioning was such that any contact would result in a goal and he was able to prod home with his thigh.
City then settled into spell of possession after that as the goal seemed to flatten United’s early energy in the contest.
The game was crying out for a spark thereafter and it took a rough challenge, a goal and a celebration to light it just before the break.
After a hefty challenge from Nuno Reis on Lachie Wales awarded United a free-kick, Nikolai Topor-Stanley floated a delivery towards Pierias at the back post.
Having been narrowly denied earlier by Thomas Glover’s outstretched leg, Pierias controlled beautifully before poking the ball beyond the City goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
United’s celebrations sparked a bit of feeling between the two sets of players and as the teams headed into the sheds level at one goal apiece, there was plenty more fire to come in the second period.
United made a fast start to the second half, getting in behind City’s defence a couple of times with Wales and Pierias linking up on the right-hand side.
A move down the left then opened up City’s defence again when Wales found Pain in behind just before the hour mark, but Prijovic’s effort from Pain’s square ball was saved and the Serbian was flagged offside, anyway.
That was largely where United’s joy ended in the second period, though, as City soon took control and Maclaren created a piece of A-Leagues history.
United failed to clear its lines and allowed Leckie to shift the ball through to City’s No.9 who squeeze a shot beyond Young to equal the all-time A-Leagues goal-scoring record.
Maclaren sat alone on 143 goals soon after when United again couldn’t clear the danger after a City flurry. Mathew Leckie directed a strong header towards the corner and Young could only parry into Maclaren’s path to tap home.
The eight-minute flurry sunk United and enabled City to see out the remainder of the contest, giving the Green and Black a mammoth task to return to the Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series.