Berisha leads United to Westgate Derby dominance
Besart Berisha fired a double against his former club to earn Western United the Westgate Derby bragging rights as a 3-1 win made it back-to-back triumphs over Melbourne Victory.
Victory legend Berisha put his ex-employers to the sword with a pair of lethal first-half headers, the first of which snapped United’s five hour 19 minute-goal drought, the second clocked up 121 Hyundai A-League goals for the competition’s all-time top scorer.
The early signs were troubling for the record GMHBA Stadium crowd as Mark Rudan’s side fell behind within a quarter of an hour to Andrew Nabbout’s fantastic strike, the seventh time in a row the Green and Black have conceded first.
But in scenes reminiscent of their two-goal turnaround to win 3-2 at Marvel Stadium in Round 4, United launched their revival when Berisha powered in Connor Pain’s cross on 17 minutes and Greek marquee man Panagiotis Kone struck on 24 minutes to flip the match on its head.
Berisha exploited Victory’s static defending for 3-1 two minutes before half-time, making it eight goals in nine games at United’s home stadium, and the home side shut down the game in the second half to secure the points.
The result breaks United's three-match losing run, taking them to third in the ladder, and confirms Victory’s worst start to a Hyundai A-League campaign. Eight points is their lowest ever points tally after nine games.
After a fast-paced opening, Josh Risdon was in the thick of the action early. The Caltex Socceroo made a crucial block from Jakob Poulsen’s strike to atone for his own error, before charging up the opposite end of the pitch and missing a free header from Kone’s seventh-minute cross.
An end-to-end contest was blown wide open when Nabbout added a brilliant finish to Poulson’s sweet one-touch through ball on 14 minutes. But in the space of ten minutes, Victory were behind when Berisha headed in Connor Pain’s delivery to end United’s 319-minute goal-drought and Kone steered in Alessandro Diamanti’s free-kick to make it 2-1.
Kurz’s side should have equalised when Ola Toivonen was denied by Filip Kurto’s excellent reflexes on 31 minutes and, from the resulting corner, James Donachie’s header crashed back off the bar before Pain cleared Toivonen’s follow-up off the goal-line.
United were living dangerously when Nabbout lashed over from inside the area and Robbie Kruse curled a shot off target, before Berisha landed the killer blow on 43 minutes – a bullet header as Risdon’s perfect cross caught Victory's rearguard flat-footed.
Kurz’s defensive unit were much improved in the second-half but the damage had already been done. The visitors struggled to find a route back into the game as Kurto parried away Adama Traore’s deflected strike on 57 minutes.
Substitute Josh Hope created a golden chance for Toivonen but Kurto make a superb recovery to deny the Victory captain from point-blank range. The Polish gloveman stopped Donachie's close-range effort in time added on, as United finally ventured forward for the first time in the half at the death, with Diamanti giving Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas a shot to save.
Nabbout lands an early blow with a brilliant finish
Andrew Nabbout does not need an invitation to shoot.
Victory sprung a counter attack and a sweet one-touch pass from Jakob Poulsen released Nabbout in space on the right.
The Caltex Socceroos had eyes only for the Western United goal and he carried the ball forward and lashed in a stinging drive which left Filip Kurto with no chance.
Berisha punishes his former club to break United's drought
It had been 29 days since Western United last celebrated a goal, but the streak was broken and it had to be Besart Berisha.
Connor Pain delivered the goods from the left and the former Victory star, and club legend, did the rest to net his fourth goal of the season.
It was Berisha's fifth goal in seven games at GMHBA Stadium and more importantly, his side's first in five hours and 19 minutes of football.
Kone pounces to convert set-piece drill
When Alessandro Diamanti stepped up to take this free-kick, he only ever had eyes for Panagiotis Kone.
The Greece international timed his run right to perfection to make sure he was the first player to reach the Italian captain's low, whipped delivery.
Kone, playing a higher role than usual in support of Berisha up front, showed his eye for goal with a tidy finish to put Mark Rudan's side 2-1 up.
Lethal Berisha extends United's advantage
Berisha chalked up his 121st Hyundai A-League goal to put Western United in a commanding position on the brink of half-time.
Josh Risdon's provided the ammunition this time from the right and Berisha added a bullet header to punish a static Victory defence.
The clinical frontman clearly enjoyed that goal, not holding back with the celebration in front of his former side. Even head coach Mark Rudan got a hug!
Western United travel to play Brisbane Roar for the first time in Round 10. The match, on Friday, 13 December at Suncorp Stadium, kicks off at 6.30pm local, 7.30pm AEDT. Get your tickets here
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