1-0 wins, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Smash and Grab

Don’t look now, but Western United might be back on their whole ‘winning 1-0 thing’. You know, that grind-it-out style of football that was never pretty, but that helped deliver them an A-League Men championship last season. Certainly, their 1-0 Boxing Day win over Melbourne Victory bore all the hallmarks of their form from a season ago. 

After heading into the World Cup break near the foot of the ALM table and then losing their return fixture to Perth Glory, back-to-back wins over Western Sydney Wanderers and now Victory has now moved Western into the tenth position on the ALM table and, thanks to the pervasive levels of parity in the competition, just a point off the top six and three points adrift of fourth-placed Central Coast Mariners. 

Both of those wins were delivered via a one-goal-to-nil margin, a throwback to the 2022-23 campaign in which Western feasted on opponent’s inability to break down their block with extensive possession, and Monday’s, notably, came despite a reduction to ten men on the half-an-hour-mark when Nikolai Topor-Stanley saw red. 

It’s a turnaround in fortunes something that coach John Aloisi believed was coming. 

“We showed our resilience again, we showed our character,” he said. “It’s not easy against any team, especially against a team like Victory, that moves the ball really well, to have 10 men for over 60 minutes. 

“So really good, really pleased for the boys because there were a lot of questions when we were conceding a lot of goals, ‘why are we conceding’ and we felt we were getting punished in situations that last year we didn’t. 

“But they kept on believing, kept on working hard in training, working on our structures, both with the ball and without the ball and it’s capped it off, this win, because to win like that, that character that we showed, just brilliant

“It showed this game and last game that when we’re organised and we’re not stretched, that we’re really hard to break down. They had a couple of chances in the second half that came from set pieces and other than that, with a man extra, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances. 

“That shows what we’re capable of doing and we know that, we proved it last season, we’re proving it again now and going forward, we’re scoring goals and we’re creating chances.”

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But while Alosi was in a positive mood come to the end of the ninety minutes, his former Socceroo teammate Tony Popovic was in a rather more dark one. 

After a week that could perhaps most charitably be described as being tumultuous for his club, the Victory boss watched on as his side, despite their one-man advantage, failed to find the back of the net for the fifth time in eight games this season. 

Despite possessing figures such as Nick D’Agostino, Chris Ikonomidis, Ben Folami, Bruno Fornaroli, Jake Brimmer and Luis Nani – albeit the latter missed the Western after a “hip/hamstring tightness” – Victory now has the same amount of goals as the much less heralded attacks of Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory, and is now underperforming their expected goals for the season by four. 

“Overall we didn’t do enough to break down ten men,” Popovic said following the Western defeat. “They sat very deep and defended well, it’s what they do.

“We could have done a little better with our final decisions. But overall, in those circumstances, it was disappointing to not at least get a point. 

“We’re seeing good work at training. Unfortunately, that’s not following up. 

“You don’t expect to have many opportunities against Western United in a game. Nor did they have many, they had one attempt in the first half and that led to a goal. 

“But we had two or three good opportunities in the first half with Nick and Bruno that, if they go in, you want to score those opportunities and the game changes. 

“They defended very well with ten men, credit to them. We look forward to doing better against them next time they play.”

Popovic, however, while acknowledging his side had enough time to get back into the game, was also furious with a missed offside call on Josh Risdon during the build-up to the corner that subsequently led to Western taking the lead through Risdon. Replays of the incident on Paramount’s post-game show appeared to validate his anger. 

“He’s three meters off before the corner. It’s not close. It’s so far offside,” the Victory gaffer said. 

“I’m not really sure what we have to do now. Do we, when the player runs with the ball into the box, do we just get out of the way and say let’s take a chance? If he shoots and scores the VAR will intervene? 

“He’s running towards the goal. That’s a goalscoring opportunity. The VAR must intervene. They can’t say it’s not a goalscoring opportunity, it is. It is because he’s running towards the goal. 

“Three meters offside, running towards goal, they get a corner, and they score from a corner. So it’s the decision prior. That’s the key. 

“They’ll tell us differently, and I’m sure the APL will come out and put another video out and try to tell me how I’m wrong again, with this decision. But that’s a clear offside and a poor decision, very poor.”

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You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

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Header Image Credit: Paramount+


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