THRILLING WIN Keeps Finals Hopes Alive


First-half goals from Chris Harold and Shane Smeltz powered Perth Glory to an impressive and thoroughly-deserved 2-1 victory over Sydney FC on Saturday night, a result that keeps the hosts’ finals hopes very much alive.

First-half goals from Chris Harold and Shane Smeltz powered Perth Glory to an impressive and thoroughly-deserved 2-1 victory over Sydney FC on Saturday night, a result that keeps the hosts’ finals hopes very much alive.

And the feelgood factor around nib Stadium was further reinforced by the sight of 15-year-old Daniel De Silva becoming the youngest player ever to represent the West Australian club when he was introduced as a substitute shortly after the hour-mark.

On a thrilling night in the west, a vocal crowd also witnessed a stunning equaliser for the visitors from Alessandro Del Piero, the second-half dismissal of left-back, Fabio and arguably Glory’s best attacking performance of the season.

The hosts were especially impressive in midfield where Matias Cordoba, Miller, Harold and Nagai all caught the eye with their energy and mobility and regularly rotated their positions to keep the Sky Blues’ defence guessing.

But Sydney also more than played their part in a compelling contest and the hosts were grateful to several stunning saves from Danny Vukovic and a standout display from centre-back Michael Thwaite as they battled to keep their season alive.

Both sides had gone close in the early exchanges, Danny Vukovic getting down low to his left to keep out a header from Lucas Neill and his opposite number, Vedran Janjetovic blocking a well-struck effort from Harold who had left Adam Griffiths for dead as he cut in from the left flank.

But the Sky Blues failed to heed that warning from the former Gold Coast man and on 19 minutes, they paid the penalty.

Liam Miller was the architect of the goal, drawing several Sydney defenders with a slaloming run to the edge of the box and then laying the ball off to Harold who thumped an angled drive in at the near post to claim his second goal in Glory colours.

Having recorded just two wins on the road all season, the visitors desperately needed to conjure a swift response to that early set-back and their marquee man duly supplied it.

Picking up the ball just inside the Glory half, Del Piero made his way to within 30 metres of Vukovic’s goal and then unleashed a swerving, dipping left-foot drive that the home ‘keeper was helpless to prevent arrowing its way into the top corner of his net.

Even the home fans were forced to acknowledge the quality of the former Juventus man’s strike, but six minutes later they had some more Glory magic to savour.

This time the goal came from the left flank, Scott Jamieson bending a teasing cross into the box where Smeltz somehow found room between a cluster of Sydney defenders and side-footed past Janjetovic from close range to restore his side’s advantage.

And there was still time left in a breathless first-half for Nagai to try his luck on several occasions from long range, while at the other end, Del Piero and Ali Abbas were narrowly off target for the visitors.

Clear-cut chances became a little thinner on the ground as the second-half progressed, but both sides continued to throw men forward and there was certainly no lack of drama to keep the crowd enthralled.

Nagai and Del Piero continued their long-range shooting duel without unduly troubling either goalkeeper before the game took another dramatic twist just short of the hour mark.

Fabio tangled with Smeltz as the Kiwi striker tried to latch onto a lofted through ball and referee Strebre Delovski opted to bring the Brazilian defender’s night to an early end by showing him his second yellow card.

Sydney’s protests at the decision were long and loud, but they were swiftly drowned out as the home fans stood as one to roar their approval of De Silva’s history-making moment.

And the youngster’s every touch was then cheered as he belied his tender years to make a seamless transition into senior football.

Forced to chase the game with a man down, Frank Farina’s side inevitably left gaps at the back and Nagai, Jamieson and Smeltz all went close to making the game safe for Glory as full-time approached.

Their failure to secure that cushion led to some anxious late moments, notably when Vukovic was forced into a stunning save to keep out a thumping drive from substitute Terry Antonis before referee Delovski brought the curtain down on a thrilling contest and left Glory celebrating a win that moves them to within three points of the top six.