Western United have claimed their first A-League Men championship in just their third season, stunning Melbourne City 2-0 in the grand final to complete coach John Aloisi’s redemption arc.
United took the advantage via City defender Nuno Reis’ own goal in the second minute, the fastest goal in an ALM decider, with Aleksandar Prijovic doubling their lead in the 30th in front of 22,495 fans at AAMI Park.
The title, which United won from third place, marks Aloisi’s first silverware as a coach and stopped City from becoming the first team to complete back-to-back premiership-championship doubles.
United took a gamble on Aloisi, who hadn’t coached since 2018 after a rough end to his time at Brisbane Roar and a brutal first job at Melbourne Heart.
It paid off in spades as they became the second team after Melbourne Victory in 2017-18 to win from outside the top two, despite being without Alessandro Diamanti, Rene Khrin and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Serbian striker Prijovic won the Joe Marston Medal as United’s focal point while central defenders Leo Lacroix and Tomoki Imai blanketed Jamie Maclaren.
Connor Pain was also superb while Josh Risdon pushed through an early injury.
Pre-game, United’s active fans unfurled a “the west has arrived tifo” and it proved prophetic inside two minutes.
Former City man Ben Garuccio whipped in a corner to the near post and Prijovic rose highest only for the ball to bounce off Reis’ head for an own goal.
United kept City to just one first-half shot and doubled their lead on the half-hour mark.
Pain’s shot was blocked by Reis and the ball rebounded off Pain’s face, took a touch off Connor Metcalfe and skidded into the path of Prijovic, who coolly finished.
The goal was originally chalked off but after a quick review with VAR Kris Griffiths-Jones, referee Chris Beath awarded it.
There was controversy in the 44th minute when City’s Carl Jenkinson squared up to Pain and appeared to headbutt the winger.
Jenkinson wasn’t punished but was hooked for Scott Galloway at halftime.
City peppered United’s goal after the break.
Curtis Good powered a header onto the bar in the 48th minute, Metcalfe headed over in the 54th while Mathew Leckie came close in the 61st.
In the 66th, Andrew Nabbout smashed a fierce shot goalward but Jamie Young somehow pulled off an incredible instinctive save.
Fifteen minutes later, Young made a wonderful fingertip save to flick Galloway’s fizzing long-range strike over the bar and ensure United’s triumph.