Western head South to go up AL ladder

·2-min read

Western United hope Tasmania can be the unlikely home of their A-League finals push after their heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Wellington Phoenix on Sunday night.

The five-goal classic in Wollongong was a pulsating affair.

Besart Berisha and Ulises Davila traded first-half penalties in Wollongong before Jaushua Sotirio and Iker Guarrotxena found close-range goals in the second half.

United were undone in injury time by a pair of Phoenix teenagers who coach Mark Rudan worked with during his 2018-19 season in New Zealand.

Sam Sutton crossed for roommate Ben Waine, both 19, after the Victorians lost their way.

"I thought we were good value in the first half ... we were in total control with and without the ball," Western coach Mark Rudan said.

"In the second half structurally we weren't as fluid, we weren't as good. And we got punished.

"The boys are down. That's natural. We lost the game in the last minute but we've got to pick them up very quickly."

A point would have positioned United on the cusp of the finals positions, with games in hand on the top six.

Instead, they remain eighth ahead of a two-game trip to the Apple Isle.

On Saturday they'll play ladder leaders Central Coast, before another clash with Wellington the following Thursday, both at Launceston's UTas Stadium.

Tasmania has hosted just two previous A-League matches, in 2012 and 2013, both staged by Melbourne Victory.

Rudan said he didn't mind giving up home ground advantage as he tried to return Western to finals.

"It's one thing having games in hand, but you've got to actually pick up points," he said.

"Our job is to grow the game and grow our fanbase and part of that is going to Tassie and making sure we do the right thing for the game ... there's a huge following down there."

Rudan said star Alessandro Diamanti was rested with "a bit of a niggle" to be fully fit for the Tasmanian swing.

After just his fifth win of the season, Ufuk Talay said their finals charge was still on track.

"If you know me and know me well I'm a winner. I like to win things," he said.

"I push that onto my players and I have an expectation on my players.

"This group has been through a lot ... but they're a good group. They want to achieve things. They want to have success."