Perth hold on to defeat plucky City
Perth Glory have withstood a late Melbourne City comeback, downing the title-contenders 3-2 in front of 14,504 fans at nib Stadium – the highest attendance for a Glory home game in over three years.
Andy Keogh, Gyorgy Sandor and Diego Castro scored for the home side, with the prolific Bruno Fornaroli scoring a consolation goal for Melbourne City.
City knew coming into the match that a win would see them re-take top spot on the A-League ladder, after Western Sydney, Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar re-took top spot progressively over the weekend.
With Alex Wilkinson and Aaron Mooy returning from Socceroos duty, youngsters Connor Chapman and Ben Garuccio were relegated to places on the bench.
For Perth, they were well aware of the importance of the match, with a win enough for them to edge to within a point of Melbourne City, and closer to a potential home final in the first week of the post-season.
Kenny Lowe welcomed Josh Risdon back from his Socceroos stint, with the right back joined by Nebojsa Marinkovic in the starting side.
Dino Djulbic missed the game through suspension, with Aryn Williams and Richard Garcia having to be content with substitute roles.
It was, predictably, the Glory who started the game positively, pushing hard for an opening goal.
Pleasingly for John van’t Schip, however, City were more than up to the task, as they kept the Glory out well in the opening stages.
In the 2nd minute, Chris Harold earned an early corner for the home side after some industrious work down the right wing. From the corner, a header from Shane Lowry was cleared off the line by Thomas Sorensen, with City able to bundle the ball away.
A few minutes later, and Diego Castro almost found the back of the net. After Andy Keogh cut back for the Spaniard, a clever turn onto his right boot allowed Castro to curl a shot toward the back post that just flashed past the woodwork.
Risdon, too, was finding space on his return from representative duty. In the 8th minute, Risdon cut the ball back for Keogh, who somehow dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Perth were forced into an early change on the half hour mark, with Chris Harold succumbing to an apparent hamstring injury; club captain Richard Garcia was brought on in his stead.
The change didn’t interrupt the home side’s dominance, though, with Marinkovic and Gyorgy Sandor both spurning golden opportunities to hand Perth the lead.
City, too, were forced into a substitution before the break, with an injured Michael Zullo replaced by Ben Garuccio.
Perth continued to spurn chances after the break, with Garcia only able to put the ball out over the by-line after he was wrong-footed by a deflected Marinkovic shot in the 49th minute.
Harry Novillo attacked the Glory defence in the 53rd minute, unleashing a low, driving shot at goal that slipped past the post. It was City’s first real shot on goal since mid-way through the first half of the match, as they sought to find a footing in the contest.
The Glory, however, would finally find the lead in the 55th minute, and it would be Andy Keogh who would score for the 8th match in a row – a new Australian top-flight record.
From a Marinkovic free-kick on the right wing, the ball to the back post spilled its way back toward the middle of the six yard box, with Keogh on hand to tap home the simplest of chances.
Despite the Glory’s dominance, City still looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
Novillo went close to finding an equaliser in the 65th minute, firing a powerful shot at the near post only to be denied by a brilliant Ante Covic save.
It wasn’t to be for Novillo, but at the other end, Gyorgy Sandor doubled the Glory’s advantage two minutes later.
A chipped ball over the City defence by Keogh was perfectly placed in front of Sandor, allowing the Hungarian to lift the ball over Sorensen and into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Garcia and Castro had chances to make it 3-0 moments later, but both were unable to find the target. First, Garcia’s header from a pinpoint Risdon cross flew over the bar, then Castro could only shoot straight at Sorensen from a one-on-one.
Castro would make amends with his next involvement, though, firing home a spectacular volley past a stunned Sorensen in the City goal.
A deep cross from the right wing off the boot of Keogh found the Spaniard at the top of the box, with Castro shooting powerfully into the far corner to send the home fans into hysterics.
In what was becoming a manic game of A-League football, Bruno Fornaroli threw his side a lifeline in the 73rd minute.
Running onto a well-timed pass, Fornaroli beat Shane Lowry, before fooling Covic into going to ground and slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Hearts were in mouths at nib Stadium deep into injury time, when substitute Marc Marino slotted a chance past Ante Covic to make it 3-2, but the Glory would persevere and maintain the slender lead through until the final whistle.
Perth now travel to Sydney to face the Sky Blues in round 27, whilst Melbourne City head home to host Adelaide United in a blockbuster clash on Friday night.
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