A Besart Berisha double has seen Western United leapfrog Adelaide United into the Hyundai A-League top six after they blitzed the Reds 5-1 on Saturday afternoon.
A three-goal opening half laid the platform for Mark Rudan’s side as they posted back-to-back wins for the first time since before Christmas to find form at the business end of the season.
Berisha opened accounts for the visitors early before Alessandro Diamanti and Max Burgess also struck before the break.
Riley McGree briefly levelled terms for the hosts midway through the opening half but from then on his side’s defensive frailties were exposed by a rampant Green and Black outfit.
Connor Pain extended the lead for the visitors just minutes into the second half, before Berisha wrapped it up with his second prior to the hour.
The Reds have now slumped to three straight defeats to fall to seventh on the league table – conceding 12 goals in that span.
While for Rudan, the result marks his first win as a manager over the club where he concluded his Hyundai A-League playing career in 2010.
Early blow for Western United as Kurto is forced off
A frenetic start to the contest was brought to a halt on nine minutes as Western United goalkeeper Filip Kurto collided with teammate Andrew Durante.
Suffering a blow to the head, Kurto was substituted and 24-year-old understudy Ryan Scott was brought on for his Hyundai A-League debut.
Berisha coolly slots the opener
Adelaide had threatened most early, but following the delay the visitors began to assert themselves - and it was none other than Besart Berisha who capitalised.
A smart pass from midfield to the right flank to Josh Risdon from Alessandro Diamanti was the catalyst before the Socceroos defender squared the ball for an unmarked Berisha bearing down on goal.
A cool finish past Paul Izzo followed as Berisha netted his 20th ever goal against the Reds.
McGree thunderbolt levels it up for the Reds
Just like when the sides last met, the lead proved fleeting as Adelaide levelled terms in the 25th minute through Riley McGree.
Louis D'Arrigo won the ball for the Reds just inside the attacking third from Diamanti and in a flash McGree bore down on goal before unleashing a bullet-like, left-footed drive from the top of the box.
The goal lifted McGree's season tally to ten goals.
Diamanti puts Western United back in front
The back-and-forth escalated shortly after as the visitors edged back ahead in what was turning into a see-sawing affair.
A turnover from James Troisi sparked a deft counter as Max Burgess fed the run of Diamanti into a gaping hole in the Reds defence.
And from there only one outcome was likely as the Italian midfield maestro tucked away his sixth goal of the season.
And then Burgess makes it three
On the back foot, the Reds could ill afford to concede again before the break...but that is exactly what happened.
Berisha stood up his marker on the edge of the box and floated a cross to the back post for Risdon. His squaring header was then nodded over the line by the well-positioned Burgess.
Initially disallowed for offside from Risdon, a VAR review followed and gave the goal the all-clear to reward the well-worked Western United move.
Pain adds another just after the restart
The Reds needed a spark in the second half and nearly found it when Kristian Opseth fired over the bar.
However, bad habits quickly returned as the visitors delivered their fourth after Diamanti tore through the heart of the Reds formation and slipped the ball through for Connor Pain, who then delivered an inch-perfect finish for his side's fourth.
The goal is just the second for Pain in the Green and Black.
Berisha at the double before the hour
The home fans surely thought it couldn't get much worse but the visitors weren't done yet as Berisha netted his side's fifth prior to the hour mark.
Risdon was again the provider as he claimed a hat-trick of assists with a well-weighted ball in behind the Reds line to meet the run of Berisha for an easy tap-in for his second brace in as many weeks.
Reds fail to find late consolation
When these sides last met George Blackwood was the hero for Adelaide, however, his best chance of the game this time came late as he sought consolation for his side.
But it was not to be as Scott got down smartly in the 89th minute to deny a firm hit, before substiutes Opseth and Mohamed Toure also spurned opportunities to lessen the margin of defeat when they shot wide as the match edged into injury time.
Adelaide United v Newcastle Jets
Sunday, 15 March
Kick off: 5.50pm local, 6.20pm AEDT
- Western United have a bye