Western United have reached the A-League semi-finals in their maiden season after outlasting Brisbane Roar in a brutal Elimination Final clash.
Four wins from six games since the A-League restart put Western United in red-hot form entering their first-ever finals campaign, and they continued the stellar run with a gritty 1-0 win over the Queensland side.
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Western United striker Besart Berisha crowed after the game: “I’m very, very happy and very proud as a player. What a story it is – first year as a club. I can’t be more thankful and more proud of the group.
“We are in the semi-finals in the first year in the league!
“We will keep dreaming and keep following the story and see where it ends. Hopefully (we go) very far.
“We have a very very special group and we fight for every minute.”
Western’s 37-year-old captain Alessandro Diamanti, having recently claimed the Alex Tobin Award as the player of the season, notched his eighth goal of the season to split the difference in a well-balanced clash at Bankwest Stadium.
Diamanti curled a pinpoint free-kick past Brisbane keeper Jamie Young just after 20 minutes. The goal came largely against the run of play, with Roar looking in the ascendancy for much of the first stanza.
But Western United’s defence repelled wave after wave of attacks as the match wore on – with Brisbane’s Brad Inman coming closest to scoring in the second half when his driven shot slammed the post.
The match became increasingly heated as tackles continued to fly, with a number of players on both sides going down with injury. Western’s veteran defender Andrew Durante is in some doubt for Wednesday’s upcoming semi-final, while rising star Max Burgess and Socceroos defender Josh Risdon both copped painful knocks.
Western now line up a semi-final on Wednesday against second-place Melbourne City – a rematch of their final game of the regular season which saw City claim a closely-fought vicotory.
Premiers Sydney FC face surprise package Perth Glory in the other match of the semi-final double-header, after Perth stunned third-place Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.
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