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Match Report: Western United 1-3 Melbourne City

Western United has gone down 3-1 to Melbourne City in an extended, 135-minute final pre-season friendly before the 2021/22 A-League Men’s season.

Despite the scoreline, it was an improved performance from United after Monday’s 1-1 draw, with two of City’s goals coming from the penalty spot, with the third an own goal, while Dylan Pierias scored a late consolation for United.

Coach John Aloisi was happy with his side’s ability to dictate the play against the current A-League Men’s champions.

“It went really well, it was a big improvement on the last game again,” Aloisi said.

“I thought we played well and controlled the first 20 minutes, and then they grew into the game and had a couple of opportunities.

“We held our shape really well and kept the ball in good areas a lot of the time, which is important against such a good team.

“In the second half we started to control it again before we made the [10] substitutions to bring the younger boys on.

“They were able to bring on their three internationals, but the young guys did really well and kept trying and creating chances and scored a goal.”

New international signings Leo Lacroix and Aleksander Prijovic were both involved and benefitted from more pre-season minutes.

“Leo (Lacroix) looked better again, the game on Monday really helped him find the tempo,” Aloisi said

“Aleks (Prijovic) came on and gave us a real presence up front, and he will get better and better as he gets more minutes.

United goalscorer, Dylan Pierias was a constant threat after coming on, and Aloisi was impressed with the number 5’s performance.

“Dylan Pierias was causing lots of problems with his pace and running in behind, and got a well-deserved goal, and had a couple of other opportunities.”

With pre-season now officially over, the attention now turns to Saturday night’s FFA Cup Play-off with the Newcastle Jets

“Pre-season is done now, and we have some players that need more minutes.”

“We would have loved to have played more pre-season friendlies, but unfortunately it hasn’t been possible. 

“We’re happy with where we’re at, and now we’re looking forward to our next challenge in Newcastle next weekend which will be another good test for us.”

Match recap

First third 

Starting XI

1. Jamie Young (GK), 4. Leo Lacroix, 6. Tomoki Imai, 8. Lachlan Wales, 9. Dylan Wenzel-Halls, 10. Steven Lustica, 11. Connor Pain, 17. Ben Garuccio, 19. Josh Risdon, 23. Alessandro Diamanti (c), 88. Neil Kilkenny

Western started the brighter of the two sides, dictating the tempo early on, while Connor Pain and Lachie Wales and constantly threatened on the flanks, and Dylan Wenzel-Halls pressed relentlessly from the outset.

But City worked their way into the game, with Marco Tilio and Nathaniel Atkinson the main outlets for the visitors.

Josh Risdon did well to quell the impact of Tilio, making several important tackles and interceptions.

It was Tilio who went closest in the opening 45 minutes, drawing his shot narrowly wide when 1-on-1 with Jamie Young.

Alessandro Diamanti had the best chance for the hosts, with Tom Glover tipping his goal bound half-volley over the bar.

Aiden O’Neill can consider himself lucky to have avoided a straight red card for a challenge on Lachie Wales, with the United winger far from happy with the tackle.

It was a tightly contested first term, and the two sides went into the first break with the scores locked at 0-0.

Second third

Starting XI

1. Jamie Young (GK), 4. Leo Lacroix, 6. Tomoki Imai, 8. Lachlan Wales, 10. Steven Lustica, 11. Connor Pain, 17. Ben Garuccio, 19. Josh Risdon, 23. Alessandro Diamanti (c), 88. Neil Kilkenny, 99. Aleksander Prijovic

Aleksander Prijovic was introduced for Wenzel-Halls in the only change going into the second term, providing a strong presence up front.

John Aloisi rang in the changes at the 70-minute mark, introducing 10 substitutes.

And five minutes later the deadlock was broken from the spot, with Colakovski making no mistake after Berenguer was fouled.

Topor-Stanley and Theoharous went closest for United, with the latter drawing a quality save from Glover. 

Third third

Starting XI

30. Ryan Scott (GK), 2. Ben Collins, 5. Dylan Pierias,12. Dalibor Markovic, 26. Nicholas Milanovic, 27. Jerry Skotadis, 29. Christian Theoharous, 38. Danny DiFrancesco (Youth), 42. Rhys Bozinovski, 44. Nikolai Topor-Stanley, 99. Aleksander Prijovic

City introduced its Socceroo trio of Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout in the final third, and they made an immediate impact.

Leckie’s cross was turned in for an own goal in the 93rd minute, and Maclaren made no mistake from the spot 12 minutes later after a blocked Nabbout shot was paid as handball against Topor-Stanley.

United created the bulk of the chances in the final term, with Dylan Pierias a constant threat down the right wing.

The number 5 was rewarded for his efforts 10 minutes from full-time, rounding the keeper and calmly slotting the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.