There will be everything to play for in the second leg of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men Semi-Final as Western United fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Melbourne Victory in the first leg on Tuesday night.
Jake Brimmer scored a wonderful volley for the away side in the 74th minute which won Victory the match ahead of Saturday night’s return fixture.
United showed plenty of promise throughout the contest and will head into that clash on Saturday with everything on the line in search of a maiden Grand Final appearance.
John Aloisi made one change to the starting line-up, with Josh Risdon coming back into the starting line up for the first time since early March.
The right-back came in for Rene Krhin who missed out with a hamstring strain. The change allowed Tomoki Imai to revert to his natural position at centre-back, while there was a return to the bench for Dylan Pierias.
The game started at quite a high tempo with Melbourne Victory launching the ball forward early and Brimmer bending a free-kick just wide of the post.
Western United went up the other end almost immediately and Lachie Wales had a shout for a penalty when he went down under a challenge from Jason Davidson deep in the penalty area.
The majority of the first quarter hour was played in Western United’s half as the side was frequently first to second balls and able to regain possession quickly whenever it was lost.
The home side had a number of corners into the box that could have resulted in a chance on goal, with one in particular flashing across the six-yard box before bouncing away.
Victory were able to have more of an impact on the game after that but United’s defence frustrated them, limiting them to crosses in the box that the Green and Black was able to deal with.
Tony Popovic’s men did have a sight on goal, though, as Nick D’Agostino got on the end of a cross at the back post but couldn’t keep his volley from sailing over the crossbar as he stretched to reach it.
United again came out strong after the restart, holding the ball in its attacking third for a good amount of time and managing to hold onto possession.
For the most part, though, the side was unable to turn that into any efforts on target, with the best look at the goal coming from an offside Aleksandar Prijovic after he missed his kick following Leo Lacroix’s left-footed effort.
In a similar way to the first period, Victory began to see more of the ball as the game wore on and started getting more players in United’s box as the Green and Black fell deeper into its defensive shape.
Just as the game as looking as if it was destined for a 0-0 draw, Victory conjured something out of nothing to break the deadlock.
Jamie Young punched a corner out to Brimmer on the edge of the box, and the Victory midfielder hit a superb volley into the top corner of the net with little over 15 minutes to play.
With the second leg to come on Saturday the goal didn’t really change the way either team went about the closing stages of the match, but United did look to play with a bit more impetus and nearly struck in the 85th minute.
Kilkenny clipped a delightful ball over the Victory defence for an oncoming Garuccio, but the left-back just couldn’t pick out Dylan Pierias with his volleyed cut-back as the United speedster slid in front of goal to reach it.
United threw men forward in injury time but an equaliser on the night wasn’t to be found. The result leaves everything open for the second leg as United knows it will need a result to stay in the hunt for silverware.