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 arc of redemption.
United took the advantage via an own goal from City defender Nuno Reis in the second minute – the fastest goal in an ALM decision – 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 prevented City from becoming the first team to double back-to-back premiership championships.
United took a gamble on Aloisi, who hadn’t coached since 2018 after a tough end to his time at Brisbane Roar and a brutal first job at Melbourne Heart.
It paid off as they became the second team after Melbourne Victory in 2017-18 to win the top two from outside, despite being without Alessandro Diamanti, Rene Khrin and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Serbian striker Prijovic won the Joe Marston Medal as United’s centerpiece, while centre-backs Leo Lacroix and Tomoki Imai cover Jamie Maclaren. Connor Pain was also fantastic, while Josh Risdon went through an early injury.
Pre-game, United’s active fans unfolded a “the west has arrived tifo” and it proved prophetic within two minutes. Former City player Ben Garuccio swung to the nearest post in a corner and Prijovic rose highest, but the ball bounced off Reis’ head for an own goal.
United kept City to just one shot in the first half and doubled their lead in the half hour. Pain’s shot was blocked by Reis and the ball bounced off Pain’s face, grabbing Connor Metcalfe and sliding into Prijovic’s path, who closed coolly.
The goal was originally disallowed, but after a quick review with VAR Kris Griffiths-Jones, referee Chris Beath awarded the goal.
There was controversy in the 44th minute when City’s Carl Jenkinson faced Pain and appeared to headbutt the winger. Jenkinson was not punished, but became addicted to Scott Galloway during halftime.
City took United’s goal after the break. Curtis Good headed over the crossbar in the 48th minute, Metcalfe headed over in the 54th while Mathew Leckie came close in the 61st.
In the 66th, Andrew Nabbt hit a fierce shot at goal, but Jamie Young somehow made an incredible instinctive save. Fifteen minutes later, Young saved a beautiful fingertip to tap Galloway’s effervescent long-range attack over the bar and secure United’s victory.