Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic has scored twice and added an assist as Western United advanced to the A-League Men grand final with an extraordinary 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
United made the season decider in just their third season and ended Victory’s club-record 16-match unbeaten run with a 4-2 aggregate win after a pulsating second-leg match on Saturday.
“There’s been a lot of people putting down the club and some things I understand, because we haven’t got a stadium and we’re still building our supporter base,” United coach John Aloisi said.
“We’re on the journey but to get there so quickly for the club is huge because that helps the supporter base grow.”
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, United twice hit the front as Prijovic capitalised on two wonderful crosses to score in each half.
Prijovic set up the decisive third goal in the 78th minute, as his delightful layoff fell to Lachie Wales, whose shot deflected off a Victory player into the net for the go-ahead goal.
The excellent Dylan Wenzel-Halls added the fourth goal in the ninth minute of added time.
Prior to the fourth goal, Victory had a number of chances to level the tie and also had an unsuccessful penalty shout.
Victory had 13 more shots and Western’s Jamie Young was by far the busier goalkeeper, but Melbourne were far less clinical in front of goal.
“We had a lot of possession in both games and in the end maybe we didn’t capitalise on our half chances well enough. We didn’t turn them into good chances,” Victory coach Tony Popovic said.
“Prijovic had two attempts and scored both so that’s quality play in a big game and you need that.”
Western scored with their first on-target attempt in the 18th minute, with Prijovic’s far post header rewarding a delightful cross from Connor Pain.
Victory midfielder Jake Brimmer again put his side ahead on aggregate with a peach of a free-kick in the 37th minute, the fourth-straight game in which he has scored.
Western briefly thought they were ahead again when Wenzel-Halls’ header hit the net just after halftime, only to be correctly ruled out for offside.
Three minutes later they did hit the lead through Prijovic’s fine sliding finish from an excellent Wenzel-Halls cross.
“As a whole team we performed very well today, very compact, terrific defence and we get rewarded in the front,” Prijovic told Paramount Plus and Network 10.
“We did analyse the previous game and we saw there was a lot opportunities to play the first ball forward on crosses and today we scored a few on crosses and we punished them.”
Victory ratcheted up the pressure after going behind for a second time, with Young making several saves.
Victory were adamant they should have had a penalty in the 42nd minute when Josh Risdon appeared to foul Rai Marchan.
Referee Alex King didn’t award a spot kick at the time and reaffirmed his decision after being called to the touchline by the VAR to view a replay of the incident.
“I think in the first half there’s a clear penalty there and when the ref goes to look at that and how he doesn’t give it, it’s hard to believe,” Popovic said.