Western United’s hopes of a maiden A-League Men premiership remain firmly alive after they beat Macarthur FC 2-0 to close within two points of leaders Melbourne City.
Connor Pain’s wonderful volley broke the deadlock in Launceston in the 57th minute, striking a blow to the Bulls’ finals hopes.
Then, with Bulls goalkeeper Filip Kurto sent up for a late corner, United broke on the counter for Aleksandar Prijovic to double their lead.
United goalkeeper Jamie Young consistently proved a thorn in Macarthur’s side while the Bulls’ task was made more difficult by Adrian Mariappa’s 69th-minute send-off.
John Aloisi’s United sit second while Macarthur remain sixth, caught amid a jostle of teams, with just four points separating fourth-placed Adelaide and eighth-placed Central Coast.
The Bulls should have taken the lead in the seventh minute when Ulises Davila squared the ball for James Meredith, but the defender failed to put his shot on target.
Young and Kurto were both excellent throughout and in the 27th minute, the United goalkeeper pulled off an incredible one-handed save to deny Mariappa’s header.
Macarthur continued to pepper United’s goal without reward.
In the 44th minute, Craig Noone lifted a lovely ball to the back post but Charles M’Mombwa couldn’t direct his header on target
United took the lead in spectacular fashion 12 minutes after the break.
Tomoki Imai picked out Pain with a searching cross and the winger smashed home a left-footed volley.
Young denied Lachie Rose in the 62nd minute and seven minutes later, Mariappa picked up his second yellow card.
Rose looked certain to equalise on the counter in the 74th but was denied by Young’s extraordinary, acrobatic save.
Kurto made a double save in the 77th minute, then denied Prijovic again in the 90th as the Bulls eyed a late reprieve.
But when the goalkeeper went up for the last-ditch corner, the ball spilled out to Neil Kilkenny, who teed up Prijovic to ice the game.