Western United got off to the perfect start in the Australia Cup, building on a dominant first half to score a 4-0 win over Edgeworth Eagles in the Round of 32.
Noah Botic got the ball rolling after previously having a goal chalked off by the offside flag before Michael Ruhs and Lachie Wales added further strikes before half-time, the former finding the net for the first time in Western United colours.
Wales added a fourth and his second after the break and United cruised to victory to book its place in the Round of 16.
John Aloisi named four debutants in the starting line-up with Tom Heward-Belle, James Donachie, Angus Thurgate and Riku Danzaki making their first competitive appearances for the Club.
Ruhs was in the starting XI for the first time while Sebastian Pasquali took up a place in midfield. Josh Risdon wore the captain’s armband.
United started sharply with Ruhs getting in behind Edgeworth’s defence in the opening moments. Botic soon had the first effort on goal, dinking the ball over the goalkeeper but just wide of the target.
Risdon and Wales quickly picked up their connection on the right-hand side with the latter sending a cross to Danzaki at the back post. The Japanese’s diving header was athletically saved before Botic turned in the rebound, but the linesman’s offside flag halted celebrations.
It was only fitting then that the opening goal came down the right-hand side and was finished off with an unerring strike from Botic.
Tomoki Imai played the ball forward to Wales and within three one touch passes, Wales gave it off and got it back from Risdon before finding Botic with a cross, and the young striker did the rest with a brilliant finish into the roof of the net.
Edgeworth posed a threat on the counter but United largely dominated proceedings, suffocating the hosts without the ball and looking menacing with it.
It was only a matter of time until that domination translated into further impact on the scoreboard with two in a couple of minutes around the half hour mark.
Botic turned provider when he stole the ball on the halfway line before playing Ruhs in to bury a cool finish underneath the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
That was Ruhs’ first goal for the Club and moments later, Danzaki had his first assist when he was alive in the box to regain possession and set up Wales for a tap in inside the box.
Western United came out of the half-time interval with two fresh faces on the pitch as youngsters Jake Najdovski and Max Bisetto came on for their senior debuts.
That marked a special moment for the Club with both players having progressed through the Western United Academy, Bisetto having only joined the Green and Black at the beginning of the current NPL 2 season.
With three goals already in the bag, United were content with playing a slightly lower tempo in the second half to manage the remainder of the contest with minimal fuss.
Preserving the clean sheet became the priority for the back four but the attackers remained intent on adding to the score line as well.
Wales did exactly that with his second goal of the night, extending his lead as United’s top scorer in the Australia Cup. After capitalising on a slip from Edgeworth’s goalkeeper, Wales lifted the ball into the net from a tight angle as Ruhs let it go on the goal line.
Ramy Najjarine came on with just under half an hour remaining and looked sharp off the right flank, finding plenty of touches and creating havoc for the Edgeworth defence.
Bisetto and Najdovski got more involved as the half wore on and the latter couldn’t believe he didn’t put his name on the scoresheet.
First, the youngster just couldn’t adjust in time as Ben Garuccio fizzed a cross towards him. Minutes later, Najdovski forced a tremendous save from the goalkeeper before lifting the rebound over the crossbar from close range.
Wales then nearly had a hat-trick in the closing minutes but a spectacular goal line clearance denied him the match ball and what would have been the cherry on top of a strong Western United win.