Keisuke Será Será, it was not meant to be, to be for the boys in navy blue who went down to ladder leaders Perth Glory in the Round 18 top of the table clash. Victory’s 2-1 loss to the Glory in front of a 25,000+ strong crowd (fantastic!) formed part two of the double header involving the earlier Dub Semi-final, with the Victory women unfortunately succumbing to the same fact up, disappointing fate.
Although A-League games starting late is a quirk of this competition, much like goal posts breaking and huge technology failures in the grand final, the Dub semi-final going into extra-time meant delayed kick off and extra opportunity for us to appreciate Zappa’s amazing linen blazer and striped pocket square combo.
Honda came back into the Victory squad, albeit on the bench, to allow Elvis a start. Toivonen was a no go with the highly technical injury of a corky, Niedermeier was absent, and new/old loan signing Donachie has yet to be named. Popovic continued his rotation policy of goal-scoring gems with Ikonomidis, Castro, and Chianese forming a better trio than an entrée of mixed dips to allow Keogh to rest on the bench.
The first half was goalless and really lacked a Corey Brown hair tug. Both sides had equal stakes and were testing each other’s defence. Kosta saw one of the early chances in the 11th, but sent his shot wide and high into the stands. Elvis turned well in the box in the 13th, but pegged his shot straight to Reddy. Perth joined in via Davidson in the 22 nd , but he too wanted to pay service to the fans in the stands to send the ball high.
Ikonomidis had several chances in the latter half of the opening 45, but was denied by the side netting on numerous occasions to the frustration of Castro, who felt like he was being left on seen more than guys who send “you up?” at 1am. Victory’s biggest chance of the half came from Athiu in the 45 th , with a good low shot from a tight angle, only to be denied by Reddy on his knees.
Yellow cards were flying throughout the match as Gillett left his mark at AAMI park, soon to be departing for the UK. Athiu was the first in the 39th, after an attempted bicycle kick in the box found less ball and more of Djulbic’s face. Antonis found the book in the 47 th , meaning he is rubbed out for next week’s clash against the Phoenix. Baena had his name added in the 71 st as he did his best Eric Bana Hulk impression to take out Castro, whilst Reddy saw yellow for time wasting in the 81 st . But in the most A-League yellow card in recent memory, Muscat continued his form of being on the end of referee discipline despite no longer playing late in the first half. Kev did his best impression of a whistle from the sidelines, an amazing feat given that it is incredibly hard to whistle between loudly chewing gum and yelling, that apparently fooled Kilkenny enough to stop play and pick up the ball.
The second half saw Thomas forced into a great save in the 57 th to deny Ikonomidis, however this was short lived as two minutes later Brown conceded a penalty through a call for handball in the box. Kilkenny stepped up to the spot with something up those sleeves of his. Although Thomas guessed correctly and got a fingertip to the ball, it still found the back of the net to finally give Perth the lead. Sensing the team were in danger, Honda made his way onto the field immediately after. Antonis attempted to claw back the equaliser in the 63rd , but his mishit went wide.
As Victory continued to be allergic to the back of the net, Castro looked to punish further as he doubled Perth’s lead in the 69th through a mesmerising outstretched leg off an Iko assist. Reddy, coming into the clash with four clean sheets in a row, had them soiled by Kiwi Kosta in the 78th as he applied a hook finish to a Broxham assist for Victory to get one back and we all felt an immediate ‘game on’ atmosphere.
The final ten minutes of regular time saw more one-way traffic than shopping at Ikea, with Victory holding over 70 percent possession as they pushed for an equaliser and Perth were just plain parking the bus. Five minutes of stoppage time were announced, and despite Victory pressing hard to get a point at home, the biggest chance came for Perth to seal it in the 90+4. Keogh was one on one with the Thomas, and we know how this ends…he blasts it wide.
The win means Perth go 7 clear at the top with 9 games of the regular season to go (surely enough to seal the Premiership, just ask Liverpool fans). Victory remain second, however are only one point clear of third place Sydney to make for a spicy finish for the top four.
By Hayley Leedham