Western United coach Mark Rudan cut the look of a satisfied and relieved man on Sunday evening.
United ended its frustrating three-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory in an A-League local derby at GMHBA Stadium.
With honourable losses piling up in recent weeks, United needed to find a win that would keep them within touching distance of the top teams in the competition.
Carrying a two-goal lead into half-time, United did what it has rarely done in the early part of this season, put up the shutters and defended all three points.
Rudan made no apologies for the defensive style of play after taking the lead in a pulsating first half.
“Today, particularly at half-time, it was about doing what we needed to do [to win],” Rudan said.
“We play in a bit of a result oriented world, so it was important that defensively we tightened things up.
“The last three games we’ve won every facet in terms of stats, except for the one that’s the most important and that’s the scoreboard.
“Today, the opposite, but we don’t really care.
“The first half performance, we did enough to win that game, then in the second half they rolled their sleeves, they were very disciplined and very structured in terms of what our game plan was, so I’m really proud of them.”
The opening 45 minutes was action packed for the 10,128 spectators – a record home crowd for Western United.
It was the visiting Melbourne Victory who drew first blood, when the speedy Andrew Nabbout pounced to score on the counter in the 14th minute.
As has been the trend for most of the season, Western United seem to enjoy the challenge of fighting back from a deficit.
United was swift with its response with veteran striker Besart Berisha awkwardly latching on to a perfect Connor Pain cross to head in the equaliser in the 17th minute.
Out of respect to the Victory fans, who he will remain a legend amongst, Berisha was relatively muted in his goal celebration.
If Victory’s defending of Berisha left a lot to be desired, its lack of attention at the set piece to Panagiotis Kone seven minutes later was unforgivable.
Dead ball specialist Alessandro Diamanti whipped in a nice ball into the box and Kone was afforded too much space and volleyed home uncontested.
Just before the break, Western United found a third goal, and this was jaw-dropping good.
Speedy winger Josh Risdon delivered a peach of a cross to Berisha, who glanced his header inside the far post. It was a thing of beauty and Berisha could not help but celebrate with gusto on this occasion.
If Western United had been criticised during its recent losing streak, it all centred on its lack of cutting edge in the front third.
That issue was totally rectified in the win over the Victory.
“There was a massive emphasis on our attacking third [at training] and you saw the result today,” Rudan said.
“I’m really pleased for them because when you work on things on the training track and it comes to fruition out on the pitch on game day, as coaches there’s nothing better for us.”
The fourth-placed Western United will have a short turnaround to Friday night’s trip to Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium