Diamanti and depth spur Western United to important 1-0 win over Brisbane

Their backs may not have been up against the wall just yet, but Western United has secured an important, 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park on Sunday evening as they looked to maintain pace with the A-League’s top six. 

Losers of two straight, Western coach Mark Rudan had declared the game as a “must win” the day prior, and his side ultimately secured the important three points thanks to two contrasting factors: another moment of magic from Italian superstar Alessandro Diamanti and strong performances from some more unheralded members of the squad. 

Entering as a second-half substitute after struggling with his fitness at training, Diamanti proved, once again, the difference maker: producing a sublimely hit cross to find the head of a diving Dylan Pierias to finally break their foes resistance in the 72nd minute. It was the type of pass that only a handful of players A-League history could ever have hoped to complete. 

Connor Pain almost added a cherry to the sundae when his side took advantage of Jamie Young going up for a late, late corner to add a second into an open goal: only for VAR to bring it back for a Pierias handball in the build-up. 

The win moves Western into the eighth position on the A-League table and just a point back of Roar, who they retain a game in hand over. Rudan’s side are now set to travel to Sydney to take on Macarthur on Saturday, while coach Warren Moon’s group – winless in their last six – will face Wellington Phoenix in Wollongong next Sunday. 

“It’s absolutely a fair result,” Moon said post-game. “If you don’t take your chances, you deserve nothing.”

“I’m not going to sit here and say we were worthy of a point. We’ve been this way for a couple of weeks now, we’ve been creating chances but if you don’t take them you’re not good enough to win the game.

“We created good chances tonight. I didn’t see the shot count but I’d say we created more than them [Brisbane won the shot stat 17 (9 on goal) to 15 (8)]. For us, we’ve got to keep working hard, we’ve got to keep trying to find solutions in that final third to score. Right now it’s not happening for us.”

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Western was without the services of experienced campaigners Diamanti, Besart Berisha, Andrew Durante, and goalkeeper Filip Kurto as starters on the evening; the quartet replaced by shifting Tomislav Uskok into the back-three and bringing Luke Duzel, Lachlan Wales, and Ryan Scott into the XI. 

“You look at the changes we made,” Rudan said post-game. “No Bes [Berisha]. No Dia [Diamanti]. People think we’re heavily reliant on those two, so it was up to the players that came in. We can do things without them.

“They give us certain skillsets and quality, as you saw with Dia’s assisst, but you saw the way we were able to press. “But we were able to press with intent and intensity and I thought that was really good, that was probably the best part about it.

“And then you know that you’ve got weapons in Bes [Berisha] and Dia [Diamanti] who can come on and do a job,”

“I thought it was a great team performance tonight when we needed it most.”

Early on at AAMI, however, it seemed as though Roar were set to take advantage of their foes diminished ranks.

Olyroos contender Dylan Wenzall-Halls cut inside from the left and blasted over the bar in the seventh minute, before a smart pass from Joseph Champness as Roar broke in transition in the tenth teed up Riku Danzaki for a saved effort. The on-loan Japanese attacker then forced Scott into an acrobatic, one-handed save when he drove a powerful effort goalward in the 23rd minute after marching right up the middle of the pitch.

Western, nonetheless, were able to weather the storm and promptly began to gain the ascendency: Iker Guarrotxena forcing a save from Roar keeper Jamie Young after being teed up for a shot atop the penalty area by Wales in the 31st. Guarrotxena then turned almost provider when he laid a ball off in a similar position for Pierias two-minutes later, with the young Western wing-back sending his half-volleyed effort straight at Young. 

Roar clearly missing the intelligence and leadership of Scott McDonald in their attacking third, Western continued to have the best of the game as the second-stanza began as Pierias, played through by Steven Lustica, burst in behind the defence before producing a tame shot at Young. 

Trying to make the best of his side’s limited second-half opportunities, Jay O’Shea fired off a shot that looked like it would provide an against the run of play opener in the 67th minute, only for Scott to produce another fine save. 

Indeed, he may not have been called into action much as the game progressed, but former bricklayer and NPL Victoria standout Scott was immense in the Western goal whenever he was called upon on Sunday night; producing a performance that made a mockery of it being just his second-ever A-League start. 

[Scott made] a world-class save in the first half,” Rudan said. “Absolute world class. He’s knocking down the door, wants to play, wants to start. We told him to think like a number one. He got his chance in the week and he backed it up again tonight.

“He was supurb. Made saves when he had to. Came out and punched in the last minute. Made some great decisions and some great saves. He was fantastic.”

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Functioning at the base of the Western midfield, 19-year-old Duzel, making just his third-ever senior start, was also outstanding; displaying the poise and confidence of a much more experienced player.

A born-and-bred ‘Westie’, the Australian U17 representative showed a willingness to take the initiative when he got on the ball and an understanding of where he needed to be when off it and in defence that bodes very well for his future development. 

“Luke Duzel was supurb,” Rudan said. “It would have been easy for me, having taken him off mid-week [in Western’s loss to Sydney FC], not to give him another chance, but young kids need to be backed in. They need games.

“I’ve been in that position before, when I played as a young kid and then didn’t see game time for five or six weeks. It kills you. So you’ve got to back him in to play and give him a lot of confidence and a lot of belief. I think he was fantastic in a must-win game.”

Auguring danger to come, Diamanti forced a nice save from Young minutes after O’Shea’s effort, before promptly showing his class with his assist for Pierias three minutes later. 

Brisbane produced a half-chance as they looked for a leveller in the 80th minute, but Golgol Mebrahtu’s cross for fellow late-substitute Masato Kudo couldn’t be turned in by the attacker. 

“I think we need to look at [starting Kudo] seriously now,” Moon said. “I don’t think we are playing too badly, I think the performances are quite good. I sit here right now, we haven’t won in six games – there’s three draws there – but the performances are not too bad.

“But, we have to start looking at ways to find the back of the net and we will work hard in training this week but we will look at all our options and see what the best option is moving forward into Wellington.”

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