Western United played out a thrilling 2-2 draw against Melbourne City in front of more than 8,000 people at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The top of the table clash was frenetic and intense, and Leo Lacroix set the tone early with a glancing header from another Ben Garuccio corner.
Rene Krhin doubled United’s lead later in the first half with his maiden United goal, but Connor Metcalfe pulled one back before half-time and Jamie Maclaren found the equaliser in the second half.
The point takes United’s undefeated run to nine matches and means John Aloisi’s side was unbeaten against City across three meetings this season.
There were two changes to John Aloisi’s starting XI from the 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets last week, with Josh Risdon returning to start at right-back. Tomoki Imai moved to centre-back and Nikolai Topor-Stanley dropped to the bench.
Adisu Bayew also came into the starting line-up in place of Neil Kilkenny, who missed the match due to personal reasons.
There was an immediate tempo to the beginning of the match, with both sets of fans creating an atmosphere for the players to feed off.
Dylan Pierias was lively down Western United’s right-hand side in the early stages, but City began to have some good spells of possession after the first 10 minutes.
The visitors had a huge chance to open the scoring around the first quarter hour when Andrew Nabbout had a clean sight of goal, but Risdon made an outstanding sliding challenge to block his shot on the goal line.
No more than a minute after that, United leapt to an early lead when Leo Lacroix stooped to head home his third goal in two games.
Risdon saw a cross blocked for a corner, and Ben Garuccio whipped in an expert delivery onto Lacroix’s head, and the Swiss star obliged with a delicate header through Matt Sutton’s legs and into the back of the net – almost a carbon copy of the opener against Newcastle Jets last week.
City kept the pressure on after that though and largely controlled possession, and Jamie Young was forced into a strong save from a Marco Tilio effort.
United remained strong in defence and took its chance to add a second on the half hour mark with a beautiful team goal.
Lacroix started the play with an interception before Risdon, Steven Lustica and Lachie Wales linked up, with the latter sending Pierias in down the right wing once more.
The No.5 blew by Scott Jamieson and put the ball on a plate for Rene Krhin to calmly slot the ball into the bottom left corner for his first Western United goal.
City pulled one back just before the interval through Connor Metcalfe, who finished a nice build-up with a strong left-footed finish into the roof of the net.
City came out of the break looking to strike immediately to level the game, and they very nearly did when a goalmouth scramble was just cleared by Lacroix off the line.
United began to focus on keeping City at bay and did so for the most poart through the opening third of the second half, but Metcalfe came within inches of equalising as he unleashed a long-range strike that hit the crossbar.
City did find their equaliser minutes later though, as Jamie Maclaren found space behind United’s defence and thumped the ball into the left-hand post and into the net.
Young made another great save as the match reach its final 20 minutes, flinging up his right glove to divert a volley from Andrew Nabbout over the crossbar.
City sustained their pressure for most of the remainder of the match, but United defended superbly to keep the reigning champions at bay and secure an important point.