Western United head coach Mark Rudan was delighted so many youthful United players got their chance to play senior football in Friday night’s thriller against Melbourne City.
The Green and Black almost pulled off a miraculous comeback, scoring twice in rapid succession late in the game after going into the break 3-0 down.
But it wasn’t enough, United going down to City 3-2 in a game played under the shroud of Melbourne’s catastrophic bushfires, which caused significant smoke and haze before and during the game.
United ended the game with a very young side.
Rudan gave debuts to a clutch of youngsters including second-half subs Josh Cavallo and Thierry Iradakunda.
Valentino Yuel, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, and Seb Pasquali all started, while the electric wing play of 19-year-old substitute Dylan Pierias was a game-changer in a hectic final 15 minutes of this five-goal thriller.
“In the second half things changed. We blooded some more youngsters.
“The big story for our club is the number of young players who got their opportunity today for the future of this football club,” Rudan told reporters after the game.
"The amount of young players who put their hands up today and said we are Western United.
"We want to be here for the long term. I'm really, really proud of every single one of them.
“They showed fight and an excellent attitude. Pierias comes on and he’s positive, and Iradakunda showed some bite and heart in midfield.
“That’s the big story for us, irrespective of the result, in what was testing conditions."
Rudan added: “It was a game of two halves.”