Western United gave Kat Smith the perfect start to her coaching tenure in the Liberty A-League Women, defeating Adelaide United 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.
It was the Taranto show as the twins combined twice either side of half-time with Melissa teeing up Adriana to score her first two goals of the season.
Chelsie Dawber made things interesting for the Green and Black in the final 20 minutes but Hannah Keane made sure of the win in injury time, wrapping up an important three points for the team.
Smith’s first starting line-up as Western United manager saw Tyla Jay Vlajnic return to the side, though her role on the right-wing was a new one.
Keane led the line with Vlajnic and Adriana Taranto either side of her while Julia Sardo continued at right-back for her third consecutive start.
In difficult conditions, the opening stages largely saw both sides getting a feel of the pitch and attempting to get the ball moving on the heavy surface.
It appeared perfect for direct, long balls and that was an avenue United was eager to explore early on with Alana Cerne and Chloe Logarzo both looking for Keane over the top of the Adelaide defence, but the American just couldn’t quite get the ball under control on both occasions.
Western United had the bulk of the possession but it was difficult to build up any sort of intricate attacking play, with the biggest threat coming from those Keane runs in behind.
Adelaide posed a significant threat on the counter-attack with the pace of American striker Mariah Lee, but United was alert to the threat with Grace Maher and Cerne called upon for a couple of last ditch defensive efforts.
Much of Adelaide’s counter-attacking impetus came with Sardo and Stacey Papadopoulos pushing high up the pitch, and the former put that territory to good use by helping to set up United’s opener.
Sardo delivered a smart throw-in to Melissa Taranto who controlled under pressure and glided past a couple of Adelaide defenders before firing the ball across the six-yard box for her sister Adriana to tap in at the back post.
That came at the perfect time for Western United just minutes before half-time, sending the visitors into the half-time break with a significant confidence boost.
United harnessed that boost and came exploding out of the half-time interval with Keane forcing two saves from Claudia Jenkins and the Green and Black keeping the pressure one with a couple of corners early on in the second half.
The visitors continued to probe and the twin connection was on show once again in the 66th minute. Melissa lifted an outstanding cross to Adriana who applied a delicate touch into the net as she arrived at the back post.
That goal gave United breathing room and confidence, but Adelaide quickly got back into the game when Chelsie Dawber robbed Cerne at the top of the box and finished past Hillary Beall.
The chaos continued two minutes later when Vlajnic cut in from the right-hand side and launched a vicious long-range strike towards goal, but Claudia Jenkins made a spectacular save to push the ball onto the post and Keane couldn’t keep her rebound underneath the crossbar.
Western United hearts were in mouths when Isabel Hodgson sent a left-footed strike curling towards the corner of the net in the 87th minute, but Beall watched on thankfully as it sailed wide of the mark.
Keiwa Hieda brought her customary energy off the bench and nearly set up Keane with a low cross, but the American couldn’t make contact with the ball.
Just as it looked like it wouldn’t be her day, Western United’s No.9 finally got her goal to seal the victory at the death, latching onto a superb ball over the top from Lucy Richards and dispatching her left-footed effort beyond the goalkeeper.
The win shot United up into the top six for at least the rest of Saturday, giving Smith the perfect start to her tenure.