Western United’s run in the Australia Cup came to an end at the quarter-final stage after a 3-0 defeat to Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon.
Goals from Anthony Caceres and Patrick Wood put the hosts in a commanding position heading into half-time before Jack Rodwell wrapped it up in the second half.
Western United will now turn all of its attention to the Isuzu UTE A-League Men season which begins with an away fixture against Melbourne City in a months’ time.
John Aloisi named an unchanged starting XI from the Round of 16 tie against Gold Coast Knights, meaning youngster Oliver Lavale was trusted with another start.
Thomas Heward-Belle and James Donachie both started against their former side while there were two big boosts on the bench as Noah Botic returned from international duty and Daniel Penha lay in waiting for his Western United debut.
United started the game energetically, affecting a couple of turnovers high up the pitch and looking to stretch Sydney’s defence in the early goings.
It was the hosts that had the first effort on goal, though, and it was nearly a spectacular opener as Luke Brattan thundered a long-range strike against the left-hand upright.
Sydney held the momentum after that and following a couple of set pieces and half chances, the Sky Blues took the lead when Joe Lolley fed Caceres to finish strongly into the bottom left corner.
Aloisi’s men showed flashes of tidy possession play but was largely unable to test Andrew Redmayne in net for Sydney.
That inability to turn possession into clear chances proved to bite United as Sydney looked threatening each time they went forward and doubled their advantage before the half hour mark.
Some indecisive defending in the box saw the Green and Black fail to clear the danger, allowing Wood to finish from the top of the six-yard box.
Sydney held the advantage heading into half-time leaving United with work to do coming out of the break in order to progress in the Australia Cup.
Western United tried to get going in the second half, looking to increase the tempo going forward and find a way back into the game.
But with a two-goal cushion and the support of a home crowd, Sydney sought to manage the contest and slow things down to see the game out.
That meant there was rather a lack of goalmouth action at either end of the pitch throughout the early stages of the second period despite United’s best efforts to put Sydney under pressure.
The longer the game went on without United finding a goal, the more it helped the hosts’ plan and a third goal seemingly all but put the game to bed in the 67th minute.
After hitting the post seconds earlier with a free header, Rodwell remained unmarked at the back post and tapped in from Lolley’s cut-back.
Daniel Penha had come on for his debut just before that goal and looked sharp in his cameo, buzzing around the pitch and picking up the ball in different pockets of space to try and create something for his teammates.
But it was a frustrating day for the Green and Black and there was to be no consolation goal, spelling the end of the side’s 2023 Australia Cup campaign.