In what has turned into the 3rd installment of “Just A-League Things” for the round, or what I will fondly refer to as our Christmas Special, the “dustance” derby on the first weekend of December saw the return of Santa for Perth and the gift of a festive red card for the Phoenix, given in circumstances more unreal than the big man himself. The top of the league Glory managed to salvage a Christmas miracle draw against a 10-men Wellington thanks to a Grinch-like manoeuvre by VAR.
Pre-game, Popa gave some insight into Perth’s newfound success this season- his regime of fitness and nutrition as strict as Jetstar’s carry-on baggage policy when you’ve purchased a Starter Fare. So what you’re saying here Popa is the answer is healthy eating and exercise. Who would have thought? This new system even includes players being provided with breakfast each morning before training. So turns out the correct management style for Perth wasn’t hiring nice guys like Kenny Lowe, it’s hiring player’s mothers.
Wellington came out firing at the first whistle, with Burns missing a strong chance for a scorcher in the 10th, only to fire the ball off to the right. Only 5 minutes later Keogh’s offside tonight, you know his hips don’t lie, and he’s going to smack into Kurto’s face alright. The hip to face clash in the box occurred at high speed, sending Kurto to the ground, requiring the stretcher buggy to escort him off field in an overall 8 minute delay that was enacted to the backdrop of “Seven Nation Army”. Although an inappropriate soundtrack for a head injury, a couple of the lyrics could ring true for VAR decisions- “Taking their time right behind my back…Don’t want to hear about it…Far from this opera…”. If the Phoenix lights and effects team could just get their timings a little different…
Despite requiring the services of second keeper Oliver Sail, Wellington sailed through the first half with relative ease, as Perth looked flat. The phoenix probed well throughout, dominated possession, and controlled play. Wellington notched up 8 shots on goal to Perth’s none in a display of dominance from Fenton, Singh, and Krishna.
The first half wasn’t over without a cry for VAR involvement. Davidson appeared to pull down on the arm of Fenton in the box, with Fenton going down (albeit quite easily), however the on field referee decision of no pen stood. No worries, because Krishna recovered from an early spectacular dive over the advertising boards to put the Nix ahead in the 44th and to take the title of all-time leading goal scorer for the Phoenix. Roy, you’ll go down in hist-or-yyyyy.
The 75th minute saw a decision that can get in the bin alongside the unused chilli sauce packets of Mi Goreng noodles. Ryan Lowry, who had only graced the field some four minutes earlier to replace Rufer, was sent off in a straight red decision courtesy of our mate VAR. To set the scene: Lowry makes a sliding tackle and gets all ball, with Ikonomodis’ shin running into the somewhat showing studs of Lowry. Ikonomidis was initially awarded a free; however play stopped as VAR urged Kersey to take a second sideline look.
Now, although I have used the words “studs up”, can I just say that this challenge was so minor that when Kersey ventured to the sideline, those watching in real-time were questioning just what exactly he was even looking at reviewing with the same quizzical look that your dad gives when he has no idea of the contents of the present with the sticker “from mum and dad”. This is one of those cases where slowed down everything looks ten times worse, that at best this was a yellow, with no one was protesting on-field when the original decision was made for a spot kick only. This is also one of those cases where if you say “technically” it was a red you are taking all of the football out of it and simply reading into every word of the rulebook in a literal sense.
The clipped Nix managed to hold on until the 82nd, when Castro was able to level the score through a bottom right corner shot following an Ikonomidis assist. Davidson had the opportunity to give Perth the full 3 points in the 89th, but his shot went high and wide.
The end of the game saw the camera pan straight to Rudan for an imminent reaction. Perhaps to even up the other side of the dugout from last week and to put himself on the naughty list?