Western United got back to winning ways on Saturday night but it was far from straightforward as the Green and Black came from behind to secure a thrilling 3-2 win over Brisbane Roar.
Brisbane struck in the opening minutes through Juan Lescano before a red card to Roar goalkeeper Jordan Holmes created a route back into the game for the Green and Black.
Adisu Bayew headed home his first ever senior goal before half-time, and an own goal from Scott Neville and Aleksandar Prijovic’s sixth strike of the season gave United a two-goal cushion late on, but Jay O’Shea converted a penalty to ensure a nervy final few minutes.
In the end United held on for the win, the side’s first of the season when coming back from behind and a result that takes John Aloisi’s men back level on points with Melbourne City at the top of the league.
There were three changes to Western United’s starting XI after the midweek draw against Melbourne Victory, with Leo Lacroix coming back in to boost the defence.
Adisu Bayew also returned to the line up and Dylan Wenzel-Halls made a start against his former side.
Another ex-Roar player in Steven Lustica notched up 50 appearances for Western United, while Nikolai Topor-Stanley moved to 358 A-League Men appearances to equal Andrew Durante’s all-time record.
Western United got off to a nightmare start as Lescano opened the scoring for Brisbane after just two minutes.
Jack Hingert pressed Jamie Young into an error and the ball fell to Lescano to stroke into an empty net for his fourth goal in as many games.
United had to respond and very nearly found a quick equaliser when Lacroix put the ball in the Brisbane net, but Topor-Stanley was flagged offside earlier in the play.
Prijovic had a chance soon after as he peeled off at the back post but couldn’t keep his header down from Steven Lustica’s lovely diagonal ball.
A near carbon copy of that combination came soon after and Prijovic was even closer with his head on this occasion, glancing the side netting as the Green and Black continued in search of the equaliser.
United was thrown a lifeline on the half hour mark when Holmes was shown a red card for bringing Lachie Wales down well outside of his penalty area.
The visitors were sparked into life and very quickly found the leveller. Some nice interplay resulted in a corner, which was swept in by Ben Garuccio and headed home by Bayew for his first senior goal.
Prijovic thought he had completed the turnaround with a deft header into the back of the net, but the goal was chalked off by VAR after Wales was found to be offside before crossing into the area.
United pressed on in the second half in search of the goal to go in front, but Brisbane were far from willing to lie down with the one-man deficit.
O’Shea attempted a fantastic volley from long range that was expertly tipped over the crossbar by Young, and United’s keeper was on hand again as Henry Hore had a chance inside the area.
John Aloisi’s side weathered the storm and finally found the leading goal as Wales once again got in behind the Brisbane defence. United’s No.8 fizzed the ball across the six-yard box and Neville could do nothing but put the ball into his own net.
Both sides rang the changes around the hour mark, and they saw the game begin to open up with fresh legs on both sides looking to keep the tempo high.
Western United continued to look strong going forward with the speed of Dylan Pierias and Connor Pain in the wide areas paying dividends. A cut-back from the latter found Lustica on the edge of the area but his shot was blocked on the line before Pierias nearly snuck in a cross-cum-shot as the match approached its final 10 minutes.
For all of his hard work and the disallowed goal in the first half, Prijovic finally got one that counted with a delightfully flicked header.
Leo Lacroix was standing over a free-kick in a seemingly non-threatening position, but the Swiss was smart to lift it into the box early, catching Brisbane unawares and Prijovic looped his header over Macklin Freke and into the net.
United was sorely mistaken if it thought that goal would be the end of the action as Brisbane won a penalty in the 87th minute when Hore went down under a challenge from Jerry Skotadis.
O’Shea obliged from the penalty spot and Brisbane’s tails were up for the final moments of the game, which were just as end-to-end as much of the rest of the game was.
Brisbane were pushing at one end and United were inches away from a fourth, and there was even a last-gasp VAR review for a potential Brisbane penalty, but in the end Adam Kersey’s final whistle brought an end to the madness, giving United all three points.