Western United gave head coach John Aloisi a 46th birthday to remember, surviving a Western Sydney Wanderers onslaught to escape with a 1-0 win and return to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League table.
Restored to the summit after being briefly supplanted by Sydney FC, Aleksandar Prijovic’s 29th-minute goal at CommBank Stadium also ensured that Western’s past didn’t come back to haunt them with new Wanderers boss Mark Rudan previously their foundation coach club before departing last season.
Missing out on the opportunity to record back-to-back wins, Rudan’s new team remain eighth on the A-League table, with three of the four sides below them retaining two games in hand.
“I can’t give you a reason why we are winning one-nil all the time but we’re happy that we’re hard to beat,” Aloisi said.
“That’s what we’ve mentioned throughout the season and throughout pre-season.
“We will score goals and make sure the opposition don’t find it easy to break through us. And they are finding it tough.”
Jack Rodwell and Tomer Hemed had early chances for the hosts but neither high-profile foreigner could find the target after being picked out in the box.
The visitors duly made them pay just before the half-hour mark when Steven Lustica seized upon the Wanderers’ attempt to clear a cross and headed the ball back into the area for Prijovic to convert.
Falling behind at any time in the ALM is less than ideal, but against the league’s resident 1-0 specialists, amongst the finest in the league in defending from a winning position, it is particularly troublesome – as the Wanderers discovered.
Neither long-range efforts from Keanu Baccus nor Keijiro Ogawa could beat Western keeper Jamie Young as the half progressed, and Ogawa should have scored in the 59th minute when he was sprung in behind Western’s lines only to see his effort bounce off the post.
Up the other end, Alessandro Diamanti should have made it 2-0 just past the hour mark when he was picked out by Connor Pain, only for the Italian to fail to properly connect with his attempt.
The Wanderers hammered on Western’s door as the second stanza continued, but couldn’t find a leveller.
“It was one-way traffic,” Rudan said. “Even the opportunities that they had were through our mistakes, which we need to improve on.
“In terms of the intensity, the possession, the position that led to chances that led to shots … we need to hit the target. That’s the difference.”