Botic-Prijovic strike duo pays off for Western United
Western United coach John Aloisi believes wily veteran Aleksandar Prijovic can help get the best out of boom youngster Noah Botic after the pair combined to sink Melbourne Victory.
United plunged a dagger into Victory's season while taking a crucial step towards a finals berth with a 2-1 win over their A-League Men rivals at AAMI Park on Monday night.
Fresh off signing a two-year deal with the reigning champions, 21-year-old Botic scored his fifth goal in five games to give United the lead in the 38th minute.
Bruno Fornaroli equalised with a free-kick in the 50th minute before Prijovic scored the winner against the run of play in the 69th to pile further pressure on Victory and coach Tony Popovic.
Botic opened the scoring when he ghosted in at the back post to cleverly prod home a Connor Pain cross for his fifth goal in as many games.
Aloisi was confident the young gun could handle the rising expectation, with some help from his 32-year-old teammate Prijovic.
"The outside noise is there, but that will always be there, especially when you're a striker," he said.
"He's got players around him that can help him with that.
"He's got Prijovic, who's got a wealth of experience. He's been around a long time, played in many different leagues.
"He's got Diamanti, who can help him. He's got a lot of players that can take the pressure off him.
"All I can do is try and guide him through what's to come."
The win lifts United (25 points) up to seventh and just two points out of the finals places while last-placed Victory (18 points) are nine points behind sixth-placed Sydney FC with six games to go.
"It's a big win. It's a really big not only in the context of the season for us but also it's a local derby and a rivalry that we've created over the last few years," Aloisi said.
"We're on a bit of a run now."
Victory were booed off the pitch at halftime, before Popovic dragged captain Josh Brillante and winger Nishan Velupillay.
They earned their chance to equalise when Tongo Doumbia clattered into Fornaroli's back.
Fornaroli stepped up and coolly steered a free-kick around the wall and past a diving Jamie Young.
The veteran striker and Fernando Romero both spurned good chances and Victory were soon left to rue their wasted opportunities.
Neil Kilkenny launched a long ball towards Pain on the left and the winger drove it in towards Prijovic, who coolly volleyed home the winner.
"It probably showcases a lot of the season," Popovic said.
"In key moments, both boxes, defensively we're getting punished and in attack we're not taking those key moments when we get opportunities and then ultimately we're always chasing.
"We conceded a really soft goal but the reaction was really good. And then when we were on top, we found a way to concede another soft goal."