ALM Match Report: Western United 2-1 Brisbane Roar

Western United A-League Men

It was an instant classic in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men on Friday night as Josh Risdon’s stoppage time winner gave Western United a 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar.

The winner brought an end to a chaotic match, one which saw Western United boss John Aloisi sent off after receiving two yellow cards.

Down 1-0 at that stage to Jay O’Shea’s penalty, Western United rallied and Penha converted a spot kick of his own before Risdon’s heroic captain’s goal.

The win is United’s second of the season and was just reward for the performance, giving the Green and Black a springboard from which to build this season.

Team News

Aloisi made one change to this starting XI from last week’s defeat to Central Coast Mariners, bringing Sebastian Pasquali into the midfield for his first start of the season in place of Steven Lustica.

Fellow midfielder Rhys Bozinovski was elevated onto the bench for the first time in 2023/24, while a minor tactical tweak saw Penha move into more of a central position with Lachie Wales filling in on the right flank.

First Half

The first bit of serious action came in the eighth minute when Brisbane’s Nikola Mileusnic cut inside from the right wing and rattled the post with a strike from distance.

Moments later, Botic and Penha combined superbly as the latter played Riku Danzaki clean through on goal, but Macklin Freke made a remarkable save to the deny the Japanese a goal against his former side.

There were plenty of challenges coming from both sets of players, one of which resulted in a penalty for Western United after Jay O’Shea was adjudged to have felled Ben Garuccio in the box.

Upon VAR review, however, referee Jack Morgan decided to overturn his original decision and renege on the penalty call, much to Western United’s frustration.

Fairly quickly after, Penha hit the crossbar directly from a corner as he continued to pose United’s biggest threat going forward.

Penha drew another strong stop from Freke when Danzaki picked him out with a smart ball into the box. He just couldn’t quite whip is left foot around it enough to send it sufficiently out of Freke’s reach.

VAR was against United again later on in the half when Morgan went to the monitor to review a challenge from Jez Lofthouse, but despite his studs making contact with Pasquali’s calf, Morgan deemed the challenge worthy of only a yellow card.

The fear for United remained, based on recurring themes from this season, that Brisbane would land a sucker punch against the run of play, and they very nearly did exactly that just before half-time.

After a nice spell of possession, Louis Zabala found the bottom left corner with an excellent finish from inside the box, but the assistant referee’s flag was in the air immediately to erase the goal for offside.

Penha had two more huge chances before the break – the first a header he just couldn’t get on top of from Wales’ delightful cross, and the second a slightly disappointing effort as he ballooned the ball over the top after Botic found him in space in the box.

Second Half

There was enough drama in that first-half to fit into an entire game, yet the second half was about to get even more wild.

Lofthouse had a good chance almost immediately after the restart but Tom Heward-Belle was sharp in goal to make the save at his near post.

Aside from that chance, much of the drama in the second half came from the hour mark onwards, starting with Penha as he struck the base of the left-hand post when he controlled, turned and shot with his right foot from the edge of the penalty area.

Wales found Botic inside the area soon after in an excellent position, but the young striker just delayed his effort slightly too long, inviting the Brisbane defenders to recover and block his shot.

Penha continued to build his highlight reel from the afternoon, almost pulling off the spectacular as he chested Angus Thurgate’s cross up into the air before leaping for a bicycle kick, but Freke was fortunate that the ball came straight at him and he was able to react well to hold onto the shot.

That made it all the more painful when Brisbane went up the other end and were given a penalty when Thomas Waddingham went to ground under a challenge from Pasquali.

Heward-Belle had made a good save from Carlo Armiento’s long-range effort and the ball popped up to Pasquali, who controlled and moved to clear the ball but made slight contact with Waddingham’s foot as he did so. O’Shea converted the spot kick, and Brisbane had the lead.

The match then exploded from there and for the remaining 20-plus minutes, as United thought it had an equaliser in double quick time.

Completing a gorgeous team move with a one-two with substitute Ramy Najjarine, Penha thumped the ball into the net and wheeled away in jubilant celebration as he believed he had just scored his first Western United goal.

But a very late offside call left the stadium confused as Penha and his teammates kept celebrating, but the goal was eventually disallowed for offside – presumably against Michael Ruhs being perceived as obstructing Freke’s view.

Amidst all that, Aloisi – who had just been yellow carded in the aftermath of the Brisbane penalty – was shown a second yellow in a bewildering few minutes. The assumption was the second caution came after the manager’s exuberant celebrations, which included kicking one of the advertising bolsters in his technical area.

Once that all calmed down, there were 15 minutes left to play, Brisbane still had a 1-0 lead and Aloisi was left to watch the remainder of the match from the stands.

Ruhs then put the ball in the net himself when he fired into the bottom corner on the spin, but the ball bounced onto his arm as he controlled it and the referee promptly whistled for a handball.

Another minute later and yet more drama as United had two shouts for handball. The first was waved away, but the second saw Jack Hingert penalised and a penalty awarded after a VAR review.

Penha was simply destined to score in this game, he placed the ball on the spot and finished unerringly into the bottom right corner before running the ball back to the halfway line so United could chase a winner.

Alex Parsons had a huge opportunity to spoil the party and put Brisbane back in front in the 88th minute but dragged his effort wide as the game approached its grandstand finish.

The final twist came in favour of the Green and Black as Wales whipped in a magnificent corner which Risdon flew courageously into traffic to meet, clipping his header over Freke and into the net before backflipping his way into celebration.

United saw out the remainder of the eight-plus minutes of stoppage time without facing any significant late threat from Brisbane, coming through a manic game with a vital three points.