ALM Match Report: Western United 3-3 Adelaide United

Connor O'Toole Western United A-League Men

Western United sent off the Regional Football Facility for season 2023/24 with a thrilling 3-3 draw with Adelaide United in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men on Tuesday night.

The Green and Black got off to a superb start with goals from Matthew Grimaldi and James Donachie opening up a 2-0 lead.

But Adelaide bounced back to hit the front in the second half before Connor O’Toole popped up with his first Western United goal to equalise in stoppage time.

Western United Team News

John Aloisi made just one change to his starting XI from Saturday’s clash against Central Coast Mariners with Tomoki Imai returning in defence.

That marked Imai’s 106th Isuzu UTE A-League appearance for the Club, taking him past Connor Pain as Western United’s all-time leading appearance maker.

Abel Walatee was named on the bench for the first time and would come on for his Isuzu UTE A-League debut in the final 10 minutes.

First Half

Western United got out to a fast start as it often has this season, playing on the front foot and seeking to bring pressure early doors.

An excellent attacking move brought the ball to Riku Danzaki’s feet at the top of the box in the 16th minute, and the Japanese blasted a left-footed strike onto the crossbar as United continued to knock on the door.

The door was pushed open three minutes later and it was United’s continued pressure that told. James Delianov gave possession away at the back for Adelaide as Grimaldi stepped in to intercept his pass and finish coolly into an empty net.

The Green and Black remained on the front foot, but there was a devastating moment for young right-back Khoder Kaddour who was stretchered off with a suspected serious knee injury.

Aloisi’s men looked to keep building on from that disappointment and found the second goal just after the hour mark from a neat set piece routine.

The move appeared to be one constructed from the training ground as Danzaki flicked on Ben Garuccio’s corner at the near post. Donachie made an arching run off his marker and blasted the bouncing ball into the back of the net for his first Western United goal.

Adelaide thought they would have an avenue to pull one straight back moments later when the referee gave a penalty after Nestory Irankunda fell under a challenge from Tom Heward-Belle, but VAR stepped in to overturn the decision.

The review technology was at United’s aid on that occasion but flipped on the stroke of half-time, this time granting Adelaide a penalty for an apparent handball against O’Toole.

Hiroshi Ibusuki converted the spot kick to give the visitors a lifeline and a route back in the game to pursue in the second half.

Second Half

Western United started well again in the second half but Adelaide quickly grew further into the contest as they chased an equaliser.

The Reds capitalised on a set piece situation of their own just before the hour to level things up as Ben Warland’s initial header hit the post and was tapped in by Ibusuki on the rebound.

Within five minutes of that going in, Adelaide rocketed into the lead with a devastating move in transition as Irankunda got in behind the defence and finished into the bottom corner.

Adelaide had renewed energy and United seemed deflated until the final 15 minutes as the fans got behind the Green and Black to push them towards an equaliser.

Garuccio had a big chance and forced a good save from Delianov in the 76th minute before Aloisi turned to three young substitutes – Jake Najdovski, Oliver Lavale and Walatee on his debut – in the final 10 minutes.

The three youngsters had an excellent impact across the final third and Najdovski came close with a first-time effort that Delianov managed to tip over the bar.

The energy and creativity that trio brought off the bench helped keep United on the front foot and ultimately helped create the equaliser as all three got in excellent positions in the box as Garuccio swung in a cross in the dying seconds.

Lavale threw himself at the ball and managed to flick a header on towards the back post where O’Toole ran in unmarked and thumped a composed finish into the roof of the net.

The final whistle went moments after play restarted as United salvaged a point, the very least the side deserved after another positive display.