Tommy Uskok, United’s giant centre back, had given the visitors the lead when a perfectly weighted free-kick from another footballing magician, Alessandro Diamanti, set him up for a fourth minute header which went in off the post.
The Mariners have shown their fighting spirit on several occasions this season already, and did so again here when they got back on level terms in the 17th minute, capitalising on defensive uncertainty.
Western failed to clear a Marco Urena header when it bounced off the post and Matty Simon reacted quicker than anyone to slam the loose ball home.
But Rudan’s men put their noses back in front just before the interval and it was the other old trickster on the field, Besart Berisha, who popped up to score his first goal of the season.
Diamanti was involved in the build up which owed much to the persistence of Tomoki Imai, the wing back, whose cross found Berisha. The striker held off the powerful challenge of Ruon Tongyik, controlled the ball, swivelled and fired high into Mark Birighitti’s net.
But Stajcic was able to refer to his book of spells and call on Kohl from the substitutes bench, and the young Sudanese born striker proved to be the crucial ingredient his team needed.
He got the Mariners back on level terms when he headed home from a Danny De Silva corner and four minutes later he had completed the transformation in this game with a diving header from a Daniel Bouman cross.
KISNORBO LEARNING SOME TOUGH LESSONS
Nobody said it was going to be easy – and it is proving to be harder than Patrick Kisnorbo would have hoped after his Melbourne City side crashed to a third straight defeat at the hands of a resurgent Newcastle Jets in the Hunter Valley on Sunday afternoon.
Kisnorbo made a bright start with an opening day win over Brisbane, but aside from a last gasp win over Western United, City have not picked up any points from their other four games, culminating in a 1-0 loss to the Jets.
Jets striker Valentino Yuel scored Western United’s first ever goal in a pre-season friendly in the winter of 2019, but he could rarely get a look in thereafter and never managed to hit the target in his nine appearances for the club.
Maybe it’s the warmer weather, the beaches or the slightly less frantic pace of a regional city, but Yuel just can’t stop scoring since he joined Newcastle in the off season to try to reignite an A-League career that looked as though it might stall after just one season.
The Kenyan born forward notched his fourth goal in his past five games when he put the Jets in front five minutes before the interval for what turned out to be the only goal of the game.
Kisnorbo has come through the City Football Group system, and one thing that has taught him is to stick to his plan despite the earlier reverses.
He adopted a similar approach in this game save for one major change – the introduction of new signing Nuno Reis as one of his two centrebacks, replacing the suspended Kerrin Stokes, sent off in the midweek loss in Gosford.
Reis brought an assurance to the rearguard in the opening period as City hustled, hassled and chased, closing down the Jets and asserting themselves on their hosts.
*Melbourne Victory’s W-League side climbed into the competition’s top four with a 4-2 win over the Newcastle Jets.
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing