Dub-day Sunday brought the first grand final rematch of the season. Would Perth adapt their tactical style after last year’s defeat? Had they learned from their opening defeat this season? Could the Glory exact revenge on a strong looking Sydney FC?
Remy Siemsen said no.
The opening 5 minutes of this game reminded me of playing a Summer 7s game against a team of 18 year olds. We rock up late, scramble to get a full team on the pitch, and spend the first 5 minutes of the game warming up before we start playing like people who have met each other before. By the time that happens we are already 2 goals down and there’s not much point anyway, so we just head to the pub and get annoyed about those zippy kids outplaying us.
Much is made about the stresses of travelling to Perth but it was the home team who looked lethargic. The first goal after about 2 minutes looked like it came from nothing. At the first time of watching I thought it was a harmless attempted cross – but then it sailed over the head of Eliza Campbell and into the back of the net. I reassessed it as a genius lob. The silence of the parochial Perth crowd made it seem even more innocuous, like the emotion and the tension of a social 7 a side. It was just weird.
The Glory were caught out again barely a few minutes later. They were trying to play it out of the back, but with no urgency at all they were always susceptible to the press of Sydney. Princess Ibini exposed this, forcing the mistake out of the defence for the rejuvenated Siemsen to hammer it home for her second goal of the game. I was beginning to think we might be seeing a cricket scoreline here.
Sydney took their foot of the pedal a little bit, though, and let the game flow. It didn’t feel like Perth were a hope of getting back into it and this feeling was exacerbated by Caitlin Foord’s cool conversion of a penalty late in the half after Ibini was bundled over in the box.
Bit harsh to not give Siemsen a chance of a hatty, surely?
Perth look like they’re trying to play the same way as they did last year. They are sitting deep and attempting to hit teams on the break with a long ball. Unfortunately, they are missing a few key components of what worked for them last year. The first and most obvious is their attacking threat – Kerr, Hill and Mautz formed a dynamic trio of pacey forwards that latched onto that long ball like I latch onto a free beverage. However, more importantly, they are missing the midfield dominance that Nikki Stanton provided.
I often joked that the whole reason Perth were successful is because they kicked people over and then kicked the ball to Kerr and Hill, but lacking the ability both to kick people over (from Stanton) and chase down the long ball I don’t see the point in continuing to play this way. It’s not going to work.
This analysis feels vindicated when looking at the difference in their second half performance. They played much better when they started pressing Sydney. Don’t get me wrong, the Sky Blues are a quality outfit and I’m not sure that it would have made a difference to the result if they had done this throughout the whole game, but at least they would have had a chance. Sitting deep is just inviting pressure. Maybe the heat played a part – Sydney certainly seemed to slow down in the second half just as Perth were ramping it up. However, it’s clear that with a subtle change of approach, the Glory were much better off.
They were rewarded for their toil with a goal straight after half time. Caitlin Doeglas slammed the ball into the roof of the net after great work from Jukic, who I thought was Perth’s best player. They continued to try and threaten but the damage had been done in the first half, and it was always going to be tricky for them to get back into it.
There’s a few things to read into the performance. Firstly – I will die on this hill – Perth need to press more. They have a different team to last year, a youthful team. Let them play proper football. Doeglas could prove me wrong but from what I’ve seen I’m not sure her game is suited to long ball football. They don’t need to play tiki taka, but they need to show something.
Sydney look a complete team this season from back to front. Bledsloe has a case for being one of the most consistent keepers in the league. Ellie Brush is a rock, and the addition of Alanna Kennedy will form a formidable centre back partnership. Teresa Polias controls the midfield better than anyone else in the league. Sofia Huerta created chances all game, and the genius of an in-form Caitlin Foord is feeding the young talents of Siemsen and Ibini up front. It’s still early doors of course but I can’t see them dropping too many points this season.
I really hope Perth can turn it around. A strong Perth Glory is good for the league, and they have the talent to do it. They’ll have a chance next week against a weak-on-paper-but-not-really Newcastle side, with all of the home advantage that comes with a late Saturday night kickoff.
If they can’t do it then, I’m not sure when they will.
By Taryn Heddo