By Lance Jenkinson
Western United has stunned local rivals Melbourne Victory, scoring the last three goals of their inaugural derby to win 3-2 in the A-League at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
It was the first time in Victory’s 15-year history that it has lost a game when holding a two-goal lead.
United stormed to victory on the back of two first half goals, the first a doozy from Alessandro Diamanti and the second an own goal from Victory defender James Donachie, and a second half match-winner from Scott McDonald.
United coach Mark Rudan said “it’s up there” with the most special wins of his coaching career.
“Two-nil down, away from home, through our own mistakes, we gave them two goals and they punished us for that, but we were courageous, they kept on playing, they kept on doing the things
that we worked on and the team we want to be as well, and you get rewarded for it,” Rudan said.
“It’s persistence, it’s courage, it’s a belief in our principles of play, so I’m really happy for them.
“It’s a testament to what we’re building as a football club.”
Western United could not have envisaged a worse start to the match.
The first 10 minutes were dominated by the Victory and plagued with United defensive errors.
Andrew Durante, usually safe with the ball at his feet for Western United, produced a loose pass that was broken up by Victory defender Leigh Broxham in the lead-up to Victory’s first goal.
Broxham pounced to move the ball to Kristijan Dobras, who found Victory captain Ola Toivonen poised and ready to unleash powerful long range strike for a goal.
A minute later, Connor Chapman carelessly turned the ball over for Western United.
On this occasion, Toivonen re-paid the favour, assisting Dobras on a goal to make it 2-0 to Victory after just seven minutes.
Western United started to clean up its act after the Dobras goal.
United Enjoyed a sustained period of pressure that led to Italian superstar Alessandro Diamanti halving the deficit in the 16th minute.
McDonald built up the attacking move for United, shifting the Victory defence out of position, but his cross was only half cleared by a defender and straight to the feet of Diamanti, who dragged
United back into the game with a powerfully struck goal from outside the box.
It was a crucial moment in the game.
“It was important that we got that first one,” Rudan said.
“Football is a very funny game, if they had’ve got the third one, it would’ve been a different story, but they didn’t.
“We showed a lot of character getting that first one, it gives you some life, some belief.”
Western United was the dominant team for the remainder of the first half.
Their reward came through a bit of luck in the form of an equalising own goal from Donachie.
McDonald again did most of the build-up work to the goal and served up a delightful cross to Josh Risdon.
Risdon redirected the ball with a header back into the box and a lunging United striker Besart Berisha did everything but get his boot on the ball, but missed the tap in.
Berisha’s former teammate Donachie came to his aid, accidentally putting the ball into his own net.
Fittingly, the 50th minute winner for Western United came from McDonald.
McDonald feigned to go inboard, but jinked back to shoot with his right boot and a deflection off Broxham saw the ball sail into the top corner away from Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.
Rudan was reticent to praise any one individual after the win, but conceded McDonald was a stand out.
“He put his hand up, he stood up, but a lot of other players did as well,” Rudan said.
“These big games, the big players stand up and create the big moments.”
Rudan is adamant the win on the road over Melbourne Victory is worth more to Western United than three points.
This game will be a reference point for his side for the remainder of the season and a moment to savour for the fans.
“This will be a game, I believe, in 10 or 15 years time that we can look back on as a football club and it’s quite a defining moment as far as I’m concerned,” Rudan said.
“A lot of clubs have defining moments in their history and we’re at the very start of it and got a long way to go by the way, but, like I said, extremely happy with not just the performance, but their attitude and persistence to keep doing the things that we’ve been working on all preseason.
“They should get a lot of confidence from that because we can come to a place like this and be 2-0 down after a matter of minutes and turn it around.”
Western United will square off with title contenders Western Sydney Wanderers in a blockbuster at GHMBA Stadium in Geelong from 7.30pm on Saturday night.