Coach John Aloisi has lauded his new-look Western United defence after yet another resolute performance saw them stun reigning A-League Men champions Melbourne City 1-0.
City were previously unbeaten in six league games stretching back to last season but had endured a scratchy start to the new campaign.
That came to a head on Saturday night when they were brought undone by a resolute United defence, marshalled by the brilliant Leo Lacroix, and Dylan Wenzel-Halls’ pinpoint finish in the 20th minute at AAMI Park.
United have two wins and one loss from their opening three games, plus an FFA Cup play-off win, while their defence has clearly improved under Aloisi.
“The biggest thing for me is our football will get better with the ball but defensively Western United conceded a lot of goals last year,” Aloisi said.
“We haven’t conceded from open play in the four games we’ve played. So that’s a massive plus.
“People talk about the back four, about the goalkeeper. It’s the whole team, it’s from the front.
“You saw (Alessandro) Diamanti chasing, fighting, closing down. If he’s doing it, that sets the tone for everyone else to do it.”
United were without Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic (hamstring tightness) but seized the advantage when Steven Lustica pounced on a poor header from Curtis Good and nodded the ball into the path of Diamanti.
The United captain slid a delightful ball into the path of Wenzel-Halls who took a touch then sweetly struck the ball across his body into the far bottom corner of Tom Glover’s goal.
United goalkeeper Jamie Young then denied City a near-certain equaliser in the 45th minute, using his feet to deflect away Jamie Maclaren’s close-range header.
City continued to press after halftime.
In the 52nd minute Aiden O’Neill ripped a fizzing long-range strike but it clattered off the post.
Three minutes later, Florin Berenguer danced along the edge of the penalty area and found Andrew Nabbout, whose fierce strike forced a brilliant diving save from Young.
From there, City huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow United’s defence down in a fruitless night for their star-studded attack.
Substitute Nathaniel Atkinson forced another good save from Young with a looping header in the 82nd minute, while the United goalkeeper parried away a deflected shot shortly after.
“They had one chance early on the counter and they scored,” City coach Patrick Kisnorbo said.
“The first half we were sloppy, our intensity was a bit low.
“Second half, I thought we dominated the whole 45 minutes and on another day some chances go in but not today.”