Western United broke its travelling curse with a first interstate away win since April last year, holding on for a big 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at CommBank Stadium.
John Aloisi made six changes to the side that drew 2-2 against Macarthur FC on Tuesday night, with returns to the starting XI for Josh Risdon, Alessandro Diamanti and Aleksandar Prijovic.
Rene Krhin was included in the matchday squad for the first time this season and took a place on the bench, along with Tuesday night’s goal scorer Nicolas Milanovic and Dylan Wenzel-Halls.
Western United started with plenty of energy, pressing and harrying Western Sydney high up the pitch and winning balls in good areas.
That helped create a big chance within the opening five minutes. Lachie Wales looped in a cross that came off the top of the crossbar before Diamanti’s follow-up was blocked on the goal line from point blank range.
Following that, the Wanderers began to gain some ascendancy in possession and had a couple of chances themselves. Jack Rodwell miscued a left-footed shot before Tomor Hemed dragged one wide and James Troisi sent a powerful effort off target from long-range.
The match then mellowed into more of a midfield battle, but United was looking to get balls in the box and one such occasion paid dividends just before the half hour mark.
Risdon’s initial cross from the right-hand side was headed away, but Steven Lustica was first to the second ball which fell to Prijovic, who showed excellent composure in the box to control and lash the ball home on the half volley.
That sparked a quick response from the home side, and Keanu Baccus tried his luck from range to force Jamie Young into an excellent save low to his right-hand side.
Both sides were looking to exploit gaps in the opposition defence heading into half-time, and United had a string of corners to keep some pressure on but couldn’t find a second goal before the break.
United was immediately on the front foot in the second period, with Prijovic directing a header on target inside the first minute, though it just lacked the power to beat Tomas Mejias in the Wanderers goal.
An even second half played out with both sides having chances to add the second goal of the match throughout.
Prijovic was in the thick of the action again as he slid in at the back post but just couldn’t reach Connor Pain’s cross.
Western Sydney had its best chance just before the hour when Keijiro Ogawa was played in behind, and the hosts were left wondering how they didn’t draw level as the Japanese’s shot hit the right-hand post and trickled back across the face of goal and out of play.
It was then Diamanti’s turn to go close again as he ghosted inside the box but couldn’t keep his shot down as he stretched to get a foot onto another Pain delivery.
As the game went on, Western United’s trademark defensive prowess came to the fore, with Leo Lacroix and Nikolai Topor-Stanley proving immovable at the heart of the visitors’defence.
Despite Western Sydney’s best efforts, Aloisi’s men held firm to take the win and present the boss with three points and a return to top spot on the table to celebrate his birthday.