Glory restored their six-point lead at the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder as first-half goals from Joel Chianese and Dino Djulbic and a second-half penalty from Neil Kilkenny secured a well-deserved, 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Tony Popovic’s men rarely looked back after Chianese’s fifth goal of the season gave them the lead in the 12th minute, with Djulbic’s towering header duly making it 2-0 before the break.
And Glory’s victory, their eighth on the road this season, was effectively made safe on 57 minutes when Diego Castro was tripped in the box and Kilkenny converted clinically from the spot.
The margin of victory could have been even greater, with home ‘keeper Ben Kennedy producing a fine save to push a stinging Juande volley onto the post in the second half, while the closest the hosts came to scoring was when Brendon Santalab inadvertently deflected a free-kick from fellow-substitute Andrew Hoole on to the cross bar with 11 minutes left.
Unsurprisingly, Popovic was delighted with the performance and the result.
“Overall, it was an excellent display,” he said.
“We started so well and I felt that we should have had a few more goals early on which would have made it more comfortable than it was.
“It’s tough coming away from home. The conditions were humid and it was a heavy pitch, but I thought the players played with real confidence and belief.
“If you look at the scoreline, you might say that it was comfortable, but we had to work really hard for everything. We defended as a team, we attacked as a team and we looked very fluent with the ball.
“Straight from the first whistle, the players were very dominant and very proactive and thoroughly deserved the win. We’ve taken another step towards being able to achieve something very special.”
The visitors began brightly and came close to breaking the deadlock as early as the third minute when Ivan Franjic’s cut-back picked out Keogh and only Kennedy’s outstretched boot prevented the Irishman’s subsequent shot from finding the net.
Glory were not to be denied shortly afterwards, however, Chianese capping an intricate passing move by rifling a low, angled drive into the far corner with his left foot.
Chris Ikonomidis then came close to making it 2-0, just failing to slide home an inviting low cross from Franjic who had been released down the right by a superb, defence-splitting ball from Kilkenny.
Although Jordan Murray occasionally threatened for the Mariners, it was the men in white who continued to look the more likely as the half wore on and it came as no surprise when they doubled their lead just shy of the half-hour mark.
Kilkenny’s corner delivery was inch-perfect and Djulbic shrugged off the attention of several defenders to notch his first goal in over four years with a thumping header.
With Ikonomidis picking up an unfortunate shoulder injury just before the break, Castro was introduced at the start of the second half and he played a key role in Glory’s third goal.
It was the Spaniard’s clever footwork that lured Jacob Melling into an ill-advised lunge inside the box and after referee Daniel Elder pointed to the spot, Kilkenny stepped up to calmly send Kennedy the wrong way and successfully net his fifth successful penalty of the season.
Moments later, a Kilkenny corner almost yielded another goal, Juande ghosting in unmarked at the far post and firing in a crisp volley which was parried by Kennedy onto the post and away to safety.
The crossbar then prevented the Mariners from claiming a late consolation as Hoole’s deflected free-kick cannoned back out, but although they managed to force a flurry of late corners, that was as close as Alen Stajcic’s side came to denying Glory a tenth clean sheet of the campaign.
Hyundai A-League 2018/19 Season Round 24
Central Coast Mariners 0 Perth Glory 3 (Chianese 12′, Djulbic 29′, Kilkenny (pen) 57′)
Referee: Daniel Elder
Central Coast Mariners: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 3.Jack CLISBY, 6. Tom HIARIEJ, 13.Aiden O’NEILL, 15.Kye ROWLES, 18.Matt MILLAR, 19.Matt SIMON (c) (8.Michael McGLINCHEY 82′), 22.Jacob MELLING, 25.Jordan MURRAY (7. Andrew HOOLE 67′), 29.Stephen MALLON (11.Connor PAIN 46′)
Substitutes not used: 12.Adam PEARCE (gk), 28.Sam GRAHAM
Yellow cards: O’Neill, Rowles
Red cards: Nil
Perth Glory: 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 3.Jason DAVIDSON (23.Scott NEVILLE 82′), 4.Shane LOWRY, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Joel CHIANESE (11.Brendon SANTALAB 73′), 9.Andy KEOGH, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 19.Chris IKONOMIDIS (17.Diego CASTRO 46′), 27.JUANDE, 88.Neil KILKENNY
Substitutes not used: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 20.Jake BRIMMER
Yellow cards: Davidson, Juande
Red cards: Nil