Diamanti magic leads Western United past Roar to reach Semi-Final in maiden season
Alessandro Diamanti’s sensational free-kick earned Western United a 1-0 win against Brisbane Roar in the competition newcomers’ first ever Hyundai A-League Finals Series match.
The Italian maestro summoned up a moment of brilliance in the 21st minute and the Green and Black fended off the Queenslanders’ comeback attempts to set up a tantalising Victorian Derby against second-seeds Melbourne City in Wednesday’s Semi-Final.
It appeared that playing six matches in 25 days was taking its toll on the start-up club, as Roar – who had only played three times during that period – dominated in the opening exchanges until Diamanti’s spell-binding effort blew the match wide open.
A breathless first-half drew to a close with ex-United striker Scott McDonald firing across goal and Matthew Ridenton volleying wide as tempers began to flare in a heated contest at Bankwest Stadium.
The three-time Champions produced wave after wave of attacks in a high-tempo second half but substitute Brad Inman’s effort that rattled the woodwork following a quick-fire breakaway was the best attempt that Roar could muster.
Mark Rudan’s side locked down the match in the closing 10 minutes, with a handful of players walking wounded ahead of their next encounter in less than 72 hours. Meanwhile, it is the end of the road for Brisbane, who come up short in coach Warren Moon’s fifth and possibly final match in the Roar dugout.
McDonald was welcomed back by his old club with a rough first challenge that saw Tomislav Uzkok handed a third-minute yellow card as Roar made moves forward in the early exchanges, forcing a series of corners which resulted in Macauley Gillesphey heading powerfully past the wrong side of Filip Kurto’s goalpost.
Brisbane kept on the pressure in the first quarter of an hour but Moon’s side lacked a crisp final touch as Corey Brown fizzed the ball across the face of goal with United’s defence standing firm. Rudan’s side made their first advances into Roar territory after 20 minutes when Besart Berisha earned a free-kick and Diamanti produced a moment of pure brilliance, beating Jamie Young’s outstretched right hand from 25 yards.
With Brisbane stunned by the goal, Diamanti and Max Burgess combined but the Italian could only toe-poke his 25th-minute effort straight at Young and, moments later, Josh Risdon found Diamanti in space in a central position and his curling strike shaved the outside of the Roar post with Young stranded.
A good chance opened up for McDonald on 36 minutes as a rampaging run by Dylan Wenzel-Halls had the Green and Black defence reeling but the 37-year-old dragged his low attempt wide. The game became wide open with Roar forced to scramble clear after Young spilled Diamanti’s strike before Brisbane's Kiwi midfielder Ridenton volleyed a close-range shot wide in stoppage time to halt to a breathless first half.
Tempers began to flare towards the end of the opening 45 with Roar captain Tom Aldred and United’s Tomoki Imai going into the referee’s book. Jay O’Shea stated Brisbane’s intentions from the off, drilling a long-range effort straight at Kurto’s goal, before Risdon burst through from Diamanti’s pass and Young had to make an excellent low save to deny the Socceroo.
The tempo continued at a rapid-fire pace but hesitations in decisive moments were beginning to cost Brisbane, while Burgess went more direct and lashed an attempt wide of goal on 57 minutes before Steven Lustica was released by Diamanti but lost his composure and skewed his shot wide on the hour mark.
Irishman O’Shea hit the target from 20 yards but failed to really test Kurto after some brilliant approach play from McDonald, before Inman had the Polish gloveman beaten but saw his strike cannon back off the post after Brisbane sprung a lightning-quick counter. Gillesphey then fired a long-range free-kick over as Roar became more desperate entering the final 20 minutes.
United had not given up hope of scoring an insurance goal as Berisha hooked a close-range half-volley over the top but their attentions turned to preventing a leveller in the last 10 minutes, as Aaron Calver landed a vital block to deny Brown’s blazing effort. It was one-way traffic from then on but United stayed organised and suffocated Roar's attacking efforts to keep their dreams alive of a fairytale debut season.