Although it was merely mathematical, Western United’s finals hopes were dashed over the weekend with losses to Melbourne Victory and Macarthur FC respectively.
The Victorian lockdown added yet another spanner in the works for Western’s frequent flyer mile record-breaking season. Friday night’s fixture against Victory was played behind closed doors at AAMI Park, meanwhile Monday’s match with Macarthur was hastily relocated to Leichhardt Oval with the green and black looking to again finish off a league campaign in NSW.
End-to-end start favours the navy blue
Although missing Josh Risdon, Victor Sanchez and Besart Berisha, Western’s 6-1 defeat to Victory was one of their worst performances in their short history. Meanwhile, it was a rare bright moment in what has been a miserable season for the Vuck, with the only downside being that their fans weren’t in the stands to see it.
The game opened up right from kickoff, with both teams playing free-flowing attacking football. It didn’t take long for the Victory onslaught to begin, as Jake Brimmer hit a brilliant half-volley after a haphazard clearance by Tomislav Uskok. Gestede then doubled his team’s lead, sticking a foot towards a strong cross made from Adama Traore. Elvis Kamsoba rectified his poor finishing earlier by easily converting in the 33rd minute to make it 3-0. Just minutes later an excellent solo effort from Ben Folami ended up in the bottom left corner. Referee Adam Bavcar ruled a penalty via VAR in favour of Western after the ball struck Ben Folami’s hand in the 18 yard box. Diamanti then converted to give the green and black a consolation goal and head into the sheds at half time with the score at 4-1.
Victory’s three goal buffer didn’t last long after the half time break; Kamsoba worked a one-two with McManaman to then coolly slot the ball past Ryan Scott for 5-1. The best goal of the night was saved for last, with Jacob Butterfield gifting the away team’s sixth for the evening.
Although it wasn’t the busiest night for the referees, the game got suddenly heated when Callum McManaman and Iker Guarrotxena got tangled in a tackle. Western’s Spaniard was clearly unhappy with the treatment the Victory winger gave him, after which Bavcar gave both players a yellow card for their troubles.
Young players get their chance
With both teams in the lower half of the table towards the end of a campaign, it was no surprise to see plenty of youth either start or come off the bench. Adisu Bayew received some minutes off the bench as did Manyluak Aguek and the returning Dalibor Markovic in the Macarthur fixture. Meanwhile, Victory’s Folami was one of their standout players whilst Lleyton Brooks, Nishan Velupillay and ACL goal scorer Gianluca Iannucci getting some minutes later in the fixture.
A happier (but still sad) night in Leichhardt
Following up getting thumped by one of the league’s cellar dwellers to play one of the in-form teams just days later could be a recipe for disaster. Although Macarthur continued their impressive run towards finals, Western showed a lot more effort and determination despite going down 2-1. Basque playmaker Markel Susaeta scored his second goal in as many fixtures to put the Bulls ahead on 27 minutes, while a surprising long-range smash from captain Mark Milligan added to their advantage just minutes later.
The response was far better after half time from the so-called “home” side (although Fox commentators were quick to point out that Campbelltown and Leichhardt are not exactly close; cheers, thanks for that). Charles M’Mbombwa nearly finished the match off for the Bulls only for the ball to bounce off the hip of Western keeper Ryan Scott safely away from goal. Following this, a classic Alessandro Diamanti corner found its way onto Guarrotxena’s head who slotted the ball neatly past Adam Federici in goal. Although Western took it to the slightly newer expansion club, the result finished 2-1 with the Victorian side now with one more game left to close out their sophomore campaign.
Hopefully the players get some well-earned rest in the off-season, but for this particular follower of the green and black, sometimes staying at home isn’t such a bad thing.
Western United 1 defeated by Melbourne Victory 6
Friday 28 May 2021 at AAMI Park, Melbourne
Goals (WU): Diamanti 45+3’
Goals (MV): Brimmer 12’, Gestede 22’, Kamsoba 33’, 50’, Folami 36’, Butterfield 82’
Yellow Cards (WU): Pain 8’, Guarrotxena 55’, Uskok 88’
Yellow Cards (MV): McManaman 55’
Man of the Match: Jacob Butterfield (MV)
Western United 1 defeated by Macarthur FC 2
Monday 31 May 2021 at Leichhardt Oval, Sydney
Goals (WU): Guarrotxena 63’
Goals (Mac): Susaeta 27’, Milligan 31’
Yellow Cards (WU): Wales 39’, Hamill 42’
Yellow Cards (MV): Martis 9’, Ruhs 83’
Man of the Match: Mark Milligan (Mac)