Super sub Diamanti lifts Western United to historic comeback win over Melbourne City
Alessandro Diamanti came off the bench to inspire Western United to claim their first ever points against Melbourne City and end their Victorian rivals’ six-match winning streak in a 2-1 turnaround at AAMI Park.
United’s talismanic captain was sent on by coach Mark Rudan in the 57th minute with the hosts trailing 1-0 and, within nine minutes, the Green and Black had overturned the deficit with Diamanti playing an instrumental role in a sensational comeback.
Craig Noone combined with Jamie Maclaren to carve open the United defence and open the scoring in the 12th minute and the A-League’s in-form side should have been out of sight as City’s front three, including Andrew Nabbout, caused no end of problems for the Green and Black’s scrambling defence in the first half.
United were desperately hanging in the game when the inspirational Italian was introduced to the action, although they had almost earned a spot-kick when Portuguese defender Nuno Reis raised an elbow to Iker Guarrotxena but referee Jonathan Barreiro stuck to his original no penalty call after a VAR review.
Wales came back to haunt his former club in the 61st minute, pouncing from close range to score the equaliser, and his first goal in a United colours, after Diamanti launched the move and Besart Berisha unselfishly put the ball on a platter with a header across goal to leave City stunned.
Five minutes later, the Green and Black hit the front when Diamanti picked out Wales and the ex-City man returned the favour for Berisha to snap a four-game goalless stretch with a lethal finish. Rostyn Griffiths missed from close range in the closing moments as United survived a late siege on their goal to record a memorable victory which lifts them from 10th to seventh on the ladder.
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As the nominal away team on their usual home ground, City were quick to take the ascendancy as Andrew Nabbout’s left-footed curler whistled past the upright and Craig Noone fired a shot at goalkeeper Ryan Scott, but the English winger made no mistake after beating Dylan Pierias to a loose ball, exchanging a crisp return pass with Jamie Maclaren and stroking in a simple finish to open the scoring in the 12th minute.
United were commanding a larger share of possession but were not making an imprint in the attacking third, while City were buzzing as Connor Metcalfe slammed over from 18 cards after the Green and Black could only half-clear a corner, and Nabbout cut inside to drill another left-footed strike dangerously close to the top corner of the hosts’ goal.
Mark Rudan’s side finally recorded a shot on goal on the half hour mark after Lachlan Wales took advantage of Florin Berenguer’s hesitation to force a good low save from Tom Glover from distance before Luke Duzel showed his creativity with a no-look cross that skimmed through the City penalty box, almost dropping inside of a stranded Glover’s far post.
That scare seemed to wake City up and the away side dominated the last quarter hour of the opening 45 minutes, with Nabbout heading straight at Scott after Ben Garuccio whipped in a teasing cross before the speedy winger turned provider but Maclaren could not engineer enough to space to direct his point-blank header away from United's onrushing gloveman.
United could have been out of sight within a minute of the restart but Nabbout could not angle his header from Garuccio’s delivery on target and, after United had strong appeals for a penalty waved away following Nuno Reis’ collision with Iker Guarrotxena, the introduction of Alessandro Diamanti paid off as the Italian launched a move that saw Pierias cross, Besart Berisha head across goal and Wales glance in the equaliser.
The game was opening up as Nabbout flashed another chance across the face of goal and Berisha could not divert Connor Pain's cross on target from close range in the 64th minute, but two minutes later the Green and Black hit the front when Diamanti's searching pass freed Wales on the right and his precise delivery was turned in at close range as the A-League's all-time leading scorer notched his 141st competition goal.
City dialled up the tempo as they searched for a response with Garuccio and Nathanial Atkinson's shots deflected over, while Noone had one effort parried wide by Scott and sent another wide of goal. As the game entered the last five minutes, Rostyn Girffiths spurned his side's best chance, unmarked from eight yards, before Maclaren saw Atkinson's cross skim away as City's run of six straight wins was halted.
Next fixtures – Matchweek 15
Newcastle Jets v Western United
Monday, 5 April 2021
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 5.05pm AEST
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City
Monday, 5 April 2021
Venue: WIN Stadium
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEST
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