Soccer-Old Australia team mates duel in coaches box for A-League title


MELBOURNE (Reuters) - John Aloisi and Patrick Kisnorbo once shared changing rooms as Australia team mates but on Saturday they will battle from the coaches box at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium during the A-League's Grand Final.

Aloisi will hope to guide plucky expansion side Western United to their first title in only their third season, while Kisnorbo is gunning for back-to-back championships at the helm of favourites Melbourne City.

Both had distinguished playing careers, with Aloisi celebrated in Australia as the man who ended the country's 42-year wait for a second World Cup appearance by netting the decisive penalty in the 2005 playoff against Uruguay.

A former Leicester City favourite, Kisnorbo was a rugged central defender capped 18 times for the Socceroos before injury cut short his international career.

Since playing an Asian Cup together in 2007 under Australia coach Graham Arnold, the pair have taken different footballing trajectories while occasionally floating into each other's orbit.

Aloisi played for City when it was known as Melbourne Heart in 2010/11, then signed Kisnorbo a couple of years later as coach of the team.

"I know him really well," Aloisi told Reuters on Wednesday.

"He’s a top guy, a very good professional as a player and now as a coach.

"He’s got that work ethic as well and you know his teams are going to be well organised.

"We'll be rivals on Saturday but that respect will always be there because of the history that we have together."

UNITED UNDERDOGS

Aloisi's first job as manager of a top-flight team ended abruptly when he was sacked by City in late-2013, and Western United are the third A-League team in his charge following a stint at Brisbane Roar.

Kisnorbo, however, has barely left the building at City, which was acquired by the powerful City Football Group in 2014.

A former club captain, Kisnorbo had a coaching apprenticeship at City's youth and women's teams, and was an assistant under men's coach Erick Mombaerts before replacing him in 2020 after the Frenchman returned home following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Kisnorbo, 41, guided City to their maiden 2020/21 title in his first season in charge, turning the tables on Sydney FC in a Grand Final re-match.

Aloisi has yet to celebrate an A-League championship, having lost consecutive semi-finals with the Roar.

He has earned kudos for reviving Western United after they slumped to 10th in the 12-team league last season, and for calmly managing a slew of key injuries coming into the post-season, including talismanic captain Alessandro Diamanti.

United match up well against City, having beaten them twice in their last three matches.

The bookmakers nonetheless give United little hope against a side laden with internationals and enjoying the resources of the City Football Group.

"We don't really worry about being underdogs or what the bookies are saying," said Aloisi.

"We just know within our group and the way we play that we've got a really good opportunity here.

"If we play at our best, we can win it."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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