Western United yearn for more after home opening draw

Panagiotis Kone creates history by scoring Western United's first goal on Australian soil. (Luke Hemer)

By Lance Jenkinson

It was a tale of two halves for Western United in a pulsating 1-1 draw with Perth Glory in its home opener at GMHBA Stadium in the A-League on Saturday.

In stark contrast to a week earlier, United came out lifeless, lacking imagination and lucky to be on level terms at half time, but Mark Rudan’s team re-grouped after the break and showed the serious attacking threat it possesses in an impressive second 45 minutes.

Panagiotis Kone, the first of United’s marquee signings, brought the game to life with an unforgettable first United goal on Australian soil in the 49th minute.

The crowd rose to its feet in unison when Kone’s long range curling strike evaded the out-stretched arms of Perth Glory goalkeeper Liam Reddy and slammed into the back of the net.

It is a goal that will be replayed over and over again and one for the 6,888 spectators in attendance to say ‘I was there for that’.

United right winger Josh Risdon was pleased with the response of his team after a lacklustre first half.

“The first half obviously wasn’t the best,” he said.

“It was pretty sloppy on our behalf and we couldn’t really keep the ball too well and we sort of got trapped in our own half.

“I thought second half we responded very well.

Western United
Western United’s Josh Risdon appeals to the referee. (Luke Hemer)

PHOTO GALLERY: Western United vs Perth Glory

“We put them on the back foot and created a lot of chances.

“A brilliant goal by ‘Pana’ there and we could’ve pinched a goal at the end there.”

Western United had a swathe of opportunities to add to its goal tally in the second half.

The always busy Alessandro Diamanti had a long range effort parried away by Reddy.

Striker Besart Berisha thought he scored for United, only to be ruled offside, much to the displeasure of the home fans.

Young substitute Dylan Pierias came the closest, chipping the keeper only for the ball to drop on to the crossbar.

Instead of doubling their lead, United coughed up its advantage.

Kristian Popovic, the son of Glory coach Tony, made United rue their missed chances when he scored from a header after some silver service from Neil Kilkenny in the 76th minute.

Western United goal scorer Panagiotis Kone is embraced by teammates Besart Berisha and Andrew Durante. (Luke Hemer)

United goalkeeper Filip Kurto had little chance to stop the powerfully struck Popovic header.

Despite his inability to keep a clean sheet, Kurto was one of United’s best players, making a number of spectacular saves.

“He was the goalkeeper of the year [for Wellington Phoenix] last year and he’s been outstanding for us,” Risdon said.

“It’s really good as a defender to know you’ve got someone in goals who can get you out of sticky situations.

“He’s been immense.”

Kone had some of the more noteworthy chances for Western United in the second half.

Those chances came through his willingness to present for teammates and get into dangerous positions.

He was one of a few United players frustrated not to find a winner.

Connor Pain was superb on the left wing, while Diamanti’s class shone through.

Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti Perth Glory’s Diego Castro share a light hearted moment pre-game. (Luke Hemer)

“Diamanti is obviously a world class player,” Risdon said.

“He’s got 360 vision.”

Risdon is pleased with the look and feel of Western United early in the season.

The cohesion for a newly constructed team is a credit to the work of Rudan, his coaching staff and the players willingness to buy in.

“We’re building as a team,” Risdon said.

The firsts keep coming for Western United in its inaugural season.

United will play its first local derby against Melbourne City at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday at 6pm.

Risdon believes three Melbourne derbies – contested between United, City and Melbourne Victory – have added more excitement around the A-League in this city.

“It adds that different dimension here in Melbourne,” he said.

“We’re really looking forward to it and it’s good that the first one is at our home.”

A-League – Round 2

Western United 1 (Panagiotis Kone 49) Perth Glory 1 (Kristian Popovic 76)

At GMHBA Stadium, Geelong