SMELTZ double but points shared


A spectacular brace from Shane Smeltz was not enough to earn three points for Perth Glory on Saturday night as Sydney FC twice came from behind to claim a share of the spoils in a pulsating 2-2 draw.

A spectacular brace from Shane Smeltz was not enough to earn three points for Perth Glory on Saturday night as Sydney FC twice came from behind to claim a share of the spoils in a pulsating 2-2 draw.

The home side dominated much of the first-half, but the under-strength visitors forced their way back into the contest after the break and duly maintained their impressive record at nib Stadium courtesy of a header from Jason Culina and a close-range finish from Seb Ryall.

The pre-match buzz may have been created by the first ever appearance in the west of Alessandro Del Piero, but ultimately he was overshadowed by Glory’s own marquee man, Smeltz.

The Kiwi international showed no sign of the injury concerns that had troubled him in the run-up to the game, doubling his goal tally for the season with two memorable finishes of the very highest quality.

Sydney’s goals meanwhile, were less spectacular, but coach Frank Farina will have taken plenty of positives from the heart shown by what was a makeshift, largely inexperienced side.

His counterpart Ian Ferguson opted to tinker with his midfield shape, pushing Liam Miller into a more advanced role alongside Steven McGarry and the switch paid immediate dividends as Glory seized the initiative right from the off, playing at a noticeably higher tempo than in recent weeks to pen the visitors into their own half for long periods.

Travis Dodd had an effort ruled out for off-side as early as the 9th minute and although the Sky Blues did create a half-chance of their own shortly afterwards, Jason Culina skied over the bar from the edge of the box and the home goal was barely threatened again before the break.

Instead, the visitors found themselves battling desperately to keep a rampant Glory side at bay, with Ryo Nagai giving former Glory man Trent McClenahan a torrid time down the left and Dodd equally lively on the opposite flank.

As the pressure from the home side grew, Sky Blues ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic was called upon to make two smart stops in the space of a minute shortly after the half-hour mark.

Firstly, the 25-year-old went full length to tip Scott Jamieson’s low drive around the post and he then showed great reflexes to foil Steven McGarry at point-blank range from the resulting corner.

But just as Frank Farina’s strugglers looked set to hang on until the break, Smeltz produced a timely reminder of why he is the A-League’s record goalscorer.

Josh Risdon whipped in a searching cross from the right and the prolific frontman got enough power on his glancing header to leave Janjetovic helpless and bag his third goal of the campaign.

Having been so dominant in the opening stanza, Glory appeared a little impatient to get the job done early in the second, allowing the visitors to create several promising opportunities on the break.

Forced to chase the game, Sydney pushed extra bodies forward, with Del Piero finally starting to exert some influence for the first time in the contest.

And shortly after the hour-mark, they got their reward.

Brett Emerton led a sweeping break down the right flank, whipped in an inch-perfect cross for fellow-Socceroo Culina and he crashed an unstoppable diving header past Vukovic to claim his first goal of the campaign.

Visibly lifted by their leveller, the Sky Blues continued their resurgence and came close to getting their noses in front when substitute Joel Chianese teed up Culina, but this time the former Gold Coast man screwed his close-range effort over the bar.

Glory’s response to that let-off was to create a decent chance of their own, a neat one-two between Dodd and Burns allowing the skipper to get in a shot which Janjetovic parried around his left post.

As the game ticked its final ten minutes, the tension grew palpably both on the field and in the stands, prompting Smeltz to produce his second piece of magic for the night.

Dodd was the creator, tormenting the visitors’ defence with a slaloming run across the top of the box before finding his fellow-attacker who curled a glorious first-time effort into the top corner of the net.

Glory’s first victory over the Sky Blues since November 2009 seemed imminent, but to their credit, Farina’s men again clawed their way back.

With just eight minutes remaining, Vukovic failed to gather a deep free-kick bent in by Del Piero and Seb Ryall gleefully lashed home the loose ball.

Dodd then fired narrowly over the bar as Glory desperately tried to restore their advantage for a third time, but the visitors hung on to secure a battling and much-needed point.