Alessandro Diamanti came off the bench to spark Western United to a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar and kickstart their A-League season.
Sunday's clash at AAMI Park shaped as a must-win for Mark Rudan's side after two consecutive losses and Dylan Pierias' 72nd-minute header proved enough. In the process, United extended the Roar's winless run to six games -- with Warren Moon's side last securing three points against Melbourne Victory on Feb. 6.
Italian star Diamanti returned to the squad after missing their loss to Sydney FC but was named on the bench.
The game was pushed back half an hour in the wake of Central Coast's clash with Perth suffering a rain delay and it was Brisbane who started fastest. Western United goalkeeper Ryan Scott soon put on a show between the sticks - denying Riku Danzaki in the 10th minute, then again in the 23rd. Danzaki went on a dashing run through the centre of the park and unleashed a lethal strike, with Scott diving to make a fingertip save.
Late in the first half, Dylan Wenzel-Halls shrugged off Victor Sanchez's challenge and forced a sharp low save from Scott.
Pierias spurned opportunities to open the scoring in the 55th and 59th minute, while Wales had the ball in the back of the net in the 63rd minute but was well offside. Then, in the 67th, Jay O'Shea forced another cracking diving save from Scott -- before Jamie Young denied Diamanti with a similarly excellent effort two minutes later.
But the United skipper -- who Rudan had called upon in the 57th minute -- simply would not be denied. Diamanti dinked an incredible left-footed ball over the Roar defence, where it bounced for a diving Pierias to head home.
Roar substitute Masato Kudo fired over the bar in the 80th minute, while Scott again denied Wenzel-Halls in the 86th.
Brisbane had a late corner and, in an attempt to pinch a point, goalkeeper Jamie Young ran up the field. But Scott punched it away and on the break, Pierias and Connor Pain combined, with the latter sliding the ball into the empty net.
But after the home side exploded into celebrations, there was a VAR review which showed the ball had hit Pierias' hand in the build-up, with the goal chalked off and United forced to settle for a 1-0 win.