Western United returned to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men table with a thrilling 3-2 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on Sunday night.
Aleksandar Prijovic opened the scoring with a delightful chip in the first half before Ben Garuccio netted a spectacular brace, with the second being an outrageous scorpion kick that will be replayed for years to come.
John Aloisi made one change to the side that drew with Sydney FC last week, with birthday boy Dylan Pierias coming in for Connor Pain who was ruled out with a foot injury.
Steven Lustica was named in midfield for a 150th appearance in the A-League Men competition, while Lachie Wales also made a milestone appearance with his 100th league match.
The opening 15 minutes largely went by without any meaningful opportunities at either end, though Prijovic had the game’s most significant opening as he had a shot blocked from a cut-back.
The Serbian striker then had a massive chance to open the scoring when he was picked out by a glorious Alessandro Diamanti cross, but the No.99 couldn’t keep his diving header under the crossbar.
Pierias created another soon after with a stunning burst of pace from behind the halfway line before his cross, again aimed for Prijovic, was nicked away by a Wanderers defender at the last minute.
In the end it was fourth-time lucky for Prijovic who scored an excellent goal to put United in front. Tomoki Imai showed great vision to clip a ball in behind, and Prijovic stayed onside before expertly lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
United continued to dictate most of the possession and forward territory, and just as it looked like the score would remain 1-0 at the interval, Garuccio stepped up to thrash home his first goal for the Club.
Diamanti found Prijovic with a switch of play before the striker showed great composure to turn and thread Garuccio in behind down the left-hand side, and the left-backs shot was too low and too hard for Daniel Margush to save at his near post.
Mark Rudan made three changes at half-time in a bid to get the Wanderers back into the game, and the route back came almost immediately after the restart.
Tomer Hemed slotted a penalty into the bottom left corner after Tomoki Imai had been penalised for a handball in the box before the visitors went in search of an equaliser, forcing two good saves from Jamie Young.
The Wanderers continued to dominate most of the proceedings in the second half but United maintained a threat on the counter-attack with the pace of Pierias and Wales.
The Green and Black needed a piece of magic to regain control, and Garuccio stepped up to provide it in spades with an outrageous goal.
After getting forward with some good link up play, Garuccio continued his run and got himself into the box with Prijovic on the ball on the left-wing.
The Serbian bent in a delicious outside of the foot cross and Garuccio leapt to score a spectacular scorpion kick, sending his teammates and fans into delirium.
But there was still 20 minutes to play and the Wanderers were back on the hunt for a goal, and Young was again alert to make a great stop from a clever Steven Ugarkovic effort.
Ugarkovic was not to be denied a second time though, driving a half-volley into the bottom left corner with five minutes to play to increase the pressure.
United’s defence held strong in the closing stages to hold on to a big win, returning to the top of the A-League Men ladder in the process.