The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Opinion

Western United's championship is the perfect end to the A-League Men season

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Expert
29th May, 2022
34

Western United’s 2-0 win over Melbourne City in Saturday night’s A-League Men grand final wasn’t just the ideal ending to a difficult season, it sets up next season perfectly as well.

Less than three days after Tony Popovic was named the A-League Men Coach of the Year at the Dolan Warren Awards, it was John Aloisi who was crowned champion at AAMI Park.

And Aloisi’s redemption as the coaching cast-off who looked finished in the Australian game is undoubtedly the storyline of the season.

Popovic may have worked wonders in dragging Victory off the foot of the table and into the semi-finals, but Aloisi winning the title in his first season at Western United is the bigger achievement.

So unexpected was the former Socceroo’s feat that practically no one was talking about him in the build-up to the finals.

Advertisement

Not for the first time, the act of performing well at the best-supported club in the league was conspicuously rewarded, with Popovic and Melbourne Victory midfielder Jake Brimmer crowned A-League Men coach and player of the season respectively at the awards ceremony last Thursday night.

But Victory aren’t the A-League’s newest champions. Based on what we saw on Saturday night, they’re not even the third-best team in Melbourne.

Because it was the club ostensibly from Melbourne’s western suburbs – and it seems no single reference to Western United is ever complete without a mention of their non-existent stadium – who pulled off a classic smash-and-grab raid against the defending champions Melbourne City on Saturday night.

Dylan Wenzel-Halls of Western United celebrates victory with teammates.

Dylan Wenzel-Halls of Western United celebrates victory with teammates. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Advertisement

They got a bit lucky with their opener, after the towering Aleksandar Prijovic put enough pressure on City defender Nuno Reis to literally shoulder the ball into his own net less than two minutes in.

It was the fastest opening goal in A-League Men grand final history and the green-and-blacks followed it up with an even more convincing finish from the former Serbian international on the half-hour mark.

Everyone except Prijovic stopped when a rebound ricocheted off Connor Pain’s face on the edge of the Melbourne City penalty box, leaving the Serb to calmly smash home Western United’s second goal on the volley.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

Advertisement

The linesman immediately flagged for offside but after a quick VAR review, referee Chris Beath ruled Prijovic was onside when the rebound flew through.

Wait a minute. VAR? Chris Beath? A quick decision? This doesn’t sound like the A-League we’ve all been watching for years.

But Beath had an excellent game with the whistle and the Australian Professional Leagues deserve some credit for finally utilising VAR the way it’s supposed to be used. When it mattered most on the biggest stage of all, the APL got everything right.

Advertisement

And they were rewarded with a respectable crowd of 22,495 turning up for the decider.

It may have been the smallest A-League Men grand final crowd in history, but guess what? It doesn’t matter.

Advertisement

Because far from being a negative, the fact that so many fans turned out in both Western United’s green-and-black and the sky blue of Melbourne City gives the APL a genuine platform to build upon for next season.

The grand final would have sold out had Melbourne Victory been involved. Instead, their sizeable fan-base can stew all off-season about only being the third-best team in the city.

Meanwhile, the broadcast itself from Channel Ten and Paramount+ offered the perfect mix of much-needed gravitas and light-hearted entertainment.

I watched the grand final on Paramount+ after a bout of COVID during the week ruled me out of attending the game, and I thought the pre-and-post game coverage was spot on.

It’s been a difficult first season under Paramount, of that we can be certain, but the whole campaign has ended on a genuine high.

More importantly, it’s ended with next season’s storylines already starting to write themselves.

Western United are the new A-League Men champions. And that should drive fans of Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC, Adelaide United and every other club absolutely wild.

close