Sports News

Soccer: Diamanti delivers to send newcomers Western United into A-League semis

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Alessandro Diamanti scored with a magnificent freekick to send Western United soaring into the A-League playoff semi-finals in their inaugural season with a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar at Western Sydney Stadium on Sunday.

The former Italy international’s first-half strike proved the difference between the sides in the elimination final and set up a last-four meeting with the expansion club’s crosstown rivals Melbourne City on Wednesday.

Champions Sydney FC, who topped the standings at the end of the heavily disrupted regular season, face Perth Glory in a rematch of last year’s championship final in Wednesday’s other semi-final.

“He’s the skipper, leads by example, just a moment of class that just lifted everyone,” United midfielder Max Burgess said of the Italian.

“Then we just dug in ... super gritty from the boys.”

Diamanti stamped his class all over a tough contest against three-times champions Brisbane, who were coached by Robbie Fowler until the Liverpool great returned to England when the coronavirus outbreak halted the season in March.

The 37-year-old midfielder was the channel through which all United’s best moves flowed and when he was not testing the Brisbane defence with some delightful through balls, he was conjuring up the most shots of any player on the pitch.

The pick of those came after evergreen striker Besart Berisha, whose goals helped Brisbane to two of their A-League titles, was fouled some five metres from the left corner of the penalty box in the 21st minute.

The heavily-tattooed Diamanti stepped up and curled the ball around a static defensive wall and into the top left-hand corner of the net off the hand of Brisbane goalkeeper Jamie Young.

Brisbane enjoyed plenty of possession and some of their passing was pleasing to the eye but it was not until four minutes into the second half that they got a shot on target through Jay O’Shea.

They pushed forward in increasing numbers in the final 20 minutes in search of an equaliser but the best they were able to muster was a powerful strike from substitute Brad Inman that pinged back off the post in the 68th minute.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar