The last of Saturday’s triple header saw Perth Glory host the Melbourne Victory at HBF Stadium, with Perth looking to further cement their top spot and one game closer to the Premiers’ Plate while the Victory made the trip with the focus on closing the gap on both Sydney FC in second and the Glory.
The atmosphere at HBF was fantastic with an attendance of 17,856 and it showed with their vocal, passionate support for their side. It was also one game closer to seeing the A-League’s 5000th goal and our favourite (well at least my favourite Kiwi) Kosta Barbarouses’ 200th A-League game.
The Victory came out of the blocks looking full of intent and lively, pushing for possession and not being content to sit back and allow the Glory to press and try cause defensive errors.
It was the home side with the first chance of the match with Chianese pouncing on a great ball through, but Diego Castro is cleaned up by Lawrence Thomas earning his side a free kick in the 9th. Kilkenny’s shot on the edge of the box was blocked and it was Perth’s first corner.
The 15th minute saw a Keisuke Honda free kick from long-range but Reddy managed the save. It was hearts in mouths for the Victory faithful when in the 20th, superstar Chris Ikonomidis snuck in behind Donachie but luckily sent his shot over the cross bar. Not the side to quit, Honda’s volley in the 23rd was blocked Lowry to again put some pressure on the home side.
The Victory earning a free kick in the 25th minute, not too far from the technical area, it was the Big Swede in Ola Toivonen who converted with a rocket of a kick. The ball went zooming over the wall and toward the top corner. Not only putting Victory in the lead but also scoring the league’s 5000th goal!
As the half progressed it seemed that Victory were a chance to score a couple more, showing plenty of attacking intent not sitting back inviting pressure from the Glory while also showing great defensive concentration. The focus from Melbourne’s defence had me smiling knowing that in a few games this season, a lapse in concentration for a minute or two is all it takes for the opposition to score.
However, we are all aware of the home side’s talent and capabilities hence their dominance across the league having only suffered one defeat thus far in the 2018/19 season. The 38th saw a great chance for the Glory when Kilkenny played a through ball to Chianese behind Victory’s defence who went for a low zipping cross toward Ikonomidis and Castro but it narrowly avoided them both. The attacking momentum seemed to shift with the Glory again denied a goal this time from a Chianese header in the 41st but Thomas managed to get his fingertips to the ball and send it over the bar for a corner.
Tony Popovic’s side not ones to give up saw another header this time through Djulbic but it was headed way over the crossbar. The 44th saw Glory again on the hunt for an equaliser with Castro sending a curling effort toward goal but straight into the arms of the awaiting Lawrence Thomas. At this point, I was hoping Victory could hold onto their narrow lead into the sheds at half time and they fortunately did.
The start of the second half saw Glory look to continue their attacking pressure with Chianese slamming in a shot on target but Lawrence Thomas managed to knock it away in the 46th! Perth were gaining momentum quite quickly with the Victory looking a little flat or perhaps content to sit back and absorb pressure, but it was definitely keeping me on edge.
The 66th minute saw a penalty awarded to the Victory for a Neville handball, after originally being denied but the VAR overturned it. Having a glance on social media it seemed to be contentious with the debate raging on was it ‘arm to ball or ball to arm?’, ‘there was no intent’, ‘natural or unnatural positioning of the arm’ but in the end it was awarded and Honda easily converts.
There was another VAR controversy with Ikonomidis going down in the box as a result of a nudge in the back by Leigh Broxham in the 69th minute. But the referees decided it was ‘not a clear and obvious error’ and it was not reviewed.
The rest of the match saw chance after chance for the Glory, notably a great header by Santalab in the 89th minute but Thomas saved it for another Glory corner.
The fourth official signalled 7 minutes of stoppage time and it honestly felt like the longest 7 minutes of my life. Logically, I knew it would be something special if Perth could score 2 let alone 3 goals to snatch the points from the travelling Victory but emotionally I was watching the clock tick down second by second waiting for the whistle.
It was Diego Castro with the final chance of the match in the final minute of the match but it was deflected just wide of the goal by Thomas Deng and I was finally allowing myself to breathe and enjoy the moment.
What a night it was; we saw the 5000th A-League goal, Perth’s second defeat of the season and a full HBF Stadium reflecting just how much attention the Glory have gained in WA.
Next week is sure to be a cracker with the Victory taking on Sydney FC with just the point separating them and Perth making the trip down to the Central Coast.
By Jakline Manevski