New-look Western Sydney are enjoying their best start to an A-League Men season in three years after Tomislav Mrcela’s wonderful goal delivered a 1-0 upset win over Melbourne Victory.
After Nani hit the post for the hosts in the 11th minute, Mrcela’s strike on the counter half-an-hour later proved the winner in front of 18,017 fans at AAMI Park.
It is the first time Western Sydney have won their opening two games since 2019-20, and their first back-to-back wins since May 2021.
Marko Rudan’s Wanderers, with Mrcela and full-back Adama Traore the only starters remaining from last season, controlled Saturday night’s clash.
Mrcela and Marcelo proved an imposing central defensive partnership, while midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof was excellent and young attacker Kusini Yengi worked over Victory’s veteran right-back Leigh Broxham.
First blood could have gone to Victory, when Nick D’Agostino’s 11th-minute cut-back deflected beyond Jake Brimmer and fell to former Manchester United star Nani at the back post.
The Melbourne marquee hit the woodwork from a tight angle.
Shortly after, Victory goalkeeper Paul Izzo punched a Nieuwenhof cross to safety, collecting Milos Ninkovic in the process.
The Wanderers playmaker had a bleeding nose but was able to continue.
Nani had a shot blocked five minutes before halftime, and shortly after towering centre-back Mrcela dispossessed Cadete and went on an unlikely barnstorming run through the centre of the pitch before slipping the ball to Brandon Borrello.
The winger cut the ball back for Mrcela, and while the defender’s initial attempt was cleared by Roderick Miranda, it fell right back into his path, where he coolly lifted it into the back of the net.
Mrcela celebrated in front of the Victory fans while the packed Wanderers away bay erupted into ecstasy.
Victory pushed for an equaliser, Brimmer skimming a free kick over the bar in the 51st minute and heading a Noah Smith cross wide 17 minutes later.
Tempers flared when Nieuwenhof dragged down a bursting D’Agostino in the 85th but Josh Brillante fired the subsequent free kick just over the bar and Victory were unable to find their way back into the game.