A gallant Western United went down 3-1 to Melbourne Victory on Boxing Day, despite Aleksandar Prijovic’s first Isuzu UTE A-League Men goal.
A number of players missed the match as a result of COVID-19 protocols, but there was a return to the matchday squad for Aleksandar Prijovic after almost a month on the sidelines.
Jamie Young made his 150th appearance in the A-League Men and his sixth consecutive start in goal, while there was a first start of the league campaign for Dylan Pierias.
Dylan Pierias had the first sighter of the game a few minutes in, cutting in from the right and drilling a left-footed shot into Ivan Kelava.
United carved out a massive opening on the counter-attack in the 10th minute, with Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Pierias combining to allow Connor Pain a shooting chance, put Kelava pulled a save out of the top corner.
But Victory took the lead, with Jason Geria rising highest to head home a Jake Brimmer corner in the 18th minute.
And the hosts made it two almost immediately, as United turned the ball over after kick-off and Brimmer teed up Josh Brillante to drive a shot into the bottom corner.
United was looking for a route back in the game and created some nice openings, particularly in wide areas as a couple of balls flashed across the six-yard box without anyone on hand to knock it home.
Ben Folami hit the crossbar going the other way after a brief spell of possession and territory for John Aloisi’s side, but the score remained 2-0 going into half-time.
As Victory were content with the lead and looking to control possession, United set about mounting a comeback and Steven Lustica nearly started it, with a crisp volley from the midfielder shaving the outside of the right-hand post.
Minutes later the hosts very nearly killed off the game, but Nikolai Topor-Stanley did just enough to put Nishan Velupillay off as the Victory substitute hit a shot wide of the mark.
United would strike the woodwork yet again, with a goalmouth scramble breaking for Leo Lacroix, but his close-range header looped onto the crossbar and Victory cleared the danger.
Prijovic came off the bench to inject some energy into the United front line, fashioning a number of half chances and shots on goal that just failed to hit the net.
But the Serbian stayed involved and pegged one back for the Green and Black in the 87th minute with a sumptuous side-footed volley after the Victory defence failed to clear a Lachie Wales cross.
United went all out for an equaliser, and by throwing players forward the defence was left open on the counter-attack, allowing Nicholas D’Agostino to seal the game for Victory on the break.