Many questions awaited Mark Rudan and his Western United squad ahead of their first season in the A-League but, after two rounds, things appear to be going pretty well.
After downing Wellington Phoenix in their inaugural game, the A-League newcomers were able to absorb a strong opening half from defending A-League premiers Perth Glory on Saturday before taking the lead early in the second half through Panagiotis Kone.
While the margin wasn’t to last – Kristian Popovic doing his father Tony a solid by heading in an equalizer in the 76th minute – United was nonetheless able to maintain their unbeaten start to the season after two games against finalists from a season ago.
“[It was] exciting, really good,” Rudan said following last Saturday’s contest.
“The people that were sitting at the stadium today can forever say there were there for the first-ever game at home. And we are extremely grateful that they came out to support us and it is important that we continue to build our support within the region as well.
“We do a lot of work within the community as well that goes somewhat unnoticed … unfortunately we could not give them three points at home for the first-ever game but hopefully, we can continue to build.
The first signing in United’s history, it was perhaps fitting that Kone that was first to find the back of the net in the first home game for the A-League’s eleventh side. Reflecting on the work of the Greek international, Rudan said it was a tantalising glimpse of what was to come.
“It is not an easy one for Pana [Kone],” United’s gaffer said “He has been away from football for a long time and if he can do something like that in round two you can only imagine how much better he is going to get. He is off in terms of leg speed and getting 90 minutes and we knew that, so we are working smartly with him.” For his part, Kone – a veteran of AEK Athens, Brescia, Bologna and Udinese – didn’t dwell too much on the sentiment on scoring his first goal for his new club.
Instead, the 32-year-old was already looking ahead to the next challenge that awaited he and his teammates in a league that has taken him by surprise.
“It was nice, I was happy for the moment,” the 28-time Greek international said following the game.
“I would be more happy if we had the three points, I think that we lost two points today.
“The first half was very difficult because they had the possession, but they created nothing serious. In the second half we played very, very well and we had lots of opportunities for goals. But we scored only one. They had one and scored one, so I think today we lost two points.
“I was expecting worse, but I think the A-League has, in the last year, a lot of quality. The players are, I think they are getting better. They are becoming better players here and I think it’s very good for Australia and for the A-League. I really enjoy being here.
“Victory and City, they are very experienced teams. They have history in this league and… they will be very difficult for us. “We’ll give our best, but City and Victory are for sure the favourites. City and Victory, they have been around a while and they know their football.
“We are a new team; we will try to give our best and I hope we will get something. But for sure, City and Victory are the favourites.”