Fantastic Fowler seals victory

A stunning hat-trick from Robbie Fowler steered Glory back into the winners’ circle and back into the race for a top six finish as they downed Melbourne Victory 3-1 at nib Stadium on Sunday.

A stunning hat-trick from Robbie Fowler steered Glory back into the winners- circle and back into the race for a top six finish as they downed Melbourne Victory 3-1 at nib Stadium on Sunday.

The marquee man proved way too hot for the visitors to handle, firing Glory into a first-half lead via a penalty rebound, before completing his treble with two goals in the space of seven minutes after the break.

“Its nice scoring goals but the most important thing is the three points,” Fowler said.

“As the gaffer (coach) said we-ve been a lot better in the last few weeks but I think today we-ve taken it Melbourne and deserved the win,” Fowler said.

Glory certainly did not look like a side lacking in confidence, hitting their straps right from the opening whistle and carving out the game-s first goalscoring opportunity with barely two minutes on the clock.

Rampaging forward from left-back where he had replaced the suspended Naum Sekulovski, Jamie Coyne dummied to shoot from the edge of the box and instead slipped a neat through ball between the converging Kevin Muscat and Rodrigo Vargas. Robbie Fowler needed no second invitation to dart into the box, but his powerful drive brought a fine, one-handed block from Victory ‘keeper Michael Petkovic at point-blank range.

Having dominated much of the build-up to the game, Archie Thompson then decided to show the Victory fans just what they have been missing since he was forced out of last season-s Grand Final with a serious knee injury. Picking up the ball in the right channel, he deceived Scott Neville and then out-paced the covering Jamie Harnwell before unleashing a powerful angled drive that drew a fine save from the alert Tando Velaphi.

Glory responded in the best possible manner to that early scare, however, breaking the deadlock from the penalty spot on 13 minutes. It was Fowler who latched onto a flick-on from the lively Baird and when he went to ground under a clumsy challenge from Vargas, referee Chris Beath did not hesitate in awarding the penalty. Fowler duly dusted himself down and although his initial effort was parried by Petkovic, the former Liverpool man kept his nerve to lash the loose ball home.

An intriguing tactical battle was unfolding, with Victory employing their customary 3-5-2 and Glory favouring the more traditional 4-4-2 and it was the home side who gradually gained the ascendancy as the half progressed. Todd Howarth had two opportunities to double Glory-s advantage, firstly heading wide from a Fowler corner before firing over after Jacob Burns and Fowler had combined cleverly to create a shooting chance on the edge of the box.

Victory, meanwhile, were threatening only occasionally, although Velaphi was called upon to make another superb block on 34 minutes, getting his right hand to a shot from Marvin Angulo and tipping the Costa Rican midfielder-s goal-bound effort wide of the post.

Four minutes later it was Glory who were back on the front foot, with Burns sending a controlled 20 metre half-volley narrowly wide after Vargas had only managed to half clear a Pellegrino cross from the right. The Victory goal then continued to lead a charmed life moments later as a delightful dinked pass from Fowler released Neville, who turned Kevin Muscat inside out only to see his low shot bring out another top class stop from the over-worked Petkovic.

Clearly buoyed by their impressive first-half display, Glory carried on where they had left off after the break and deservedly grabbed their second goal of the afternoon nine minutes in. Neville again overlapped to great effect down the right flank, drilled in a low cross and Fowler showcased his legendary eye for a goal as he took his shot first time and swept the ball home past Petkovic at the near post.

Victory looked shell-shocked at this point, struggling to cope with the home side-s movement in the final third and with The Shed in full voice, Glory pushed home their advantage to bag a third goal just after the hour-mark. Pellegrino-s chipped through ball caught the visitors- defence flat-footed as they looked in vain to play Fowler off-side and finding himself clean through on goal, Glory-s marquee man calmly side-footed past Petkovic to seal a stunning hat-trick.

With the game all but over as a contest, Ian Ferguson-s side could have been forgiven for sitting back and protecting their hard-won advantage, but they did no such thing, continuing to throw bodies forward at every opportunity and going close in the space of three minutes through long-range efforts from Pellegrino and the impressive Neville.

Not to be overshadowed by his fellow full-back, Coyne then decided to get in on the attacking act, playing a neat one-two with the ubiquitous Fowler, but failing to make a decent connection from close range with only Petkovic to beat.

To their credit, Victory continued to chase what was increasingly looking like a lost cause and they managed to claim a consolation goal with eleven minutes remaining. Angulo released Diogo Ferreira down the right and he picked out fellow-substitute Mate Dugandzic who made no mistake with a close-range finish at the far post.

That strike failed to take the gloss off a sparkling display from Ian Ferguson-s men, arguably their best home performance of the season and indeed Fowler could have added a fourth in stoppage time, dragging his shot centimetres wide after fine approach work from substitute Tommy Amphlett.