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Opinion

Are Western United a Cinderella story or the A-League's ugly sibling?

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Expert
23rd August, 2020
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If a moment of quality is all it takes to win games of football, then Western United will fancy their chances of being crowned champions with Alessandro Diamanti pulling the strings.

Who would have thought that a guy who played 17 times for Italy might be a quality player? If only we’d seen him grace the league several seasons ago.

But Melbourne Victory’s loss is well and truly Western United’s gain, after the irrepressible Italian fired the A-League newcomers into the semi-finals with another outrageous goal at Bankwest Stadium overnight.

Jamie Young won’t want to watch too many replays of the winner, but sometimes there’s little goalkeepers can do when a magician like Diamanti lines up a free-kick from distance.

And the Italian was always going to shoot – even if his match-winner in Parramatta was the first time he’d actually scored from a free-kick all season.

One of the most entertaining elements of Diamanti’s game is that he’s always looking to play unusual passes and surprise opposition goalkeepers with shots from long range.

It doesn’t always come off, but in a league where plenty of teams are guilty of playing robotic, risk-averse styles of football, Diamanti’s willingness to try something different is a breath of fresh air.

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But you know what’s not? Western United’s season-long commitment to the darker arts of the game.

If there’s time to be wasted, injuries to be exaggerated and referees to be complained to, you can be certain there’ll be a green-and-black jersey around.

It can be a tough slog watching the newcomers at times, especially when they’re protecting a lead into the dying stages of a game.

But is it the sort of thing that turns viewers off the A-League, or simply an aspect of football you see in every single other league around the world?

More to the point, are Western United this season’s Cinderella story or simply the ugly step-sibling to more established rivals Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City?

It’s been interesting to read some of the complaints aimed at United this season, many of which revolve around their desire to build a stadium in Tarneit, often made by fans of clubs playing in borrowed stadiums of their own.

Would they be a more likeable club if they’d simply picked a home ground and stuck with it? And who will the neutrals be backing when they face off against City on Wednesday night?

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One thing is certain: you can’t really argue with Mark Rudan’s results as a coach.

He’s won the National Premier Leagues with Sydney United, led Wellington Phoenix to the elimination final last season and gone one better by taking Western United to the final four this time around.

Coach Mark Rudan of Western United

Coach Mark Rudan of Western United (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

It’s a record fans of clubs like Victory – who are expected to unveil John Aloisi as their latest coach today – and Western Sydney Wanderers must be looking upon with envy.

And the notion that local coaches might have a better lay of the land is surely one worth exploring given everything that’s transpired in this strangest of A-League campaigns.

City coach Erick Mombaerts will fly the flag for the foreign legion on Wednesday night, but in a season in which the likes of Marco Kurz and Markus Babbel were sacked and Gertjan Verbeek and Robbie Fowler both departed in contentious circumstances, it feels like most A-League clubs will have no choice but to look towards homegrown talent from here on in.

Which leaves someone like Brisbane Roar coach Warren Moon in an interesting bind given that he inherited his squad from Fowler.

Brisbane deserve credit for reaching the finals, but as Fox Sports pundit Mark Bosnich said in the pre-game show last night, they always looked like they might struggle to bust the game open.

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If only they had someone like Diamanti. With four sides remaining, he’ll surely be eyeing off a spot on the big stage come next Sunday night.