Last season’s A-League Premiers and grand finalists Perth Glory have all-but-secured their place in the finals this time around after a 3-1 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers on Tuesday night.
Glory had looked in some danger of sliding out of the top six following a pair of disappointing defeats to Wellington and Adelaide in the past fortnight.
But Socceroo Ivan Franjic kickstarted the victory with a lunging finish from close range on the hour mark, before a penalty to Neil Kilkenny and a stunning maiden goal from defender James Meredith sealed the win.
Glory remain in fifth but climb to 37 points, which should be enough to ensure their place in the knockout stages.
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Goalscorer cops HUGE hit
Wanderers’ captain Mitchell Duke had equalised for his side just three minutes after the opener, but his 12th goal of the season wasn’t enough for his side to claim a much-needed win in the race for finals.
With two games remaining for the Wanderers, the Western Sydney side sit four points off sixth-placed Adelaide but with a host of teams still in the running for the last spot in the knockout stages.
The first half was a cagey affair with chances at a premium, leading Socceroos great Mark Bosnich to comment that “both sides are playing like they don’t want to lose”.
With Perth having conceded five goals in their last match against Adelaide, holding out the Wanderers was clearly front of mind.
The quality of the football on display improved rapidly in the second stanza as both sides opened up, leading to a flurry of chances.
Socceroo Ivan Franjic opened the scoring for Perth on the hour mark after beating Wanderers keeper Tristan Prendergast to the ball, but he was clattered by the gloveman in a nasty collision which forced the fullback from the field.
Coach Tony Popovic said after the match: “From all reports it was a heavy knock. Thankfully we don’t expect it to be a serious injury. It was really brave to go in there and get the goal.”
One seriously sweet strike
Just three minutes later Wanderers captain Mitchell Duke scored his 12th goal of the season, turning sharply inside the box before sliding the ball past the keeper.
Perth was given a deserved penalty in the 78th minute after Jake Brimmer darted into the box and crossed a low ball into the arm of a sliding defender.
Influential midfielder Neil Kilkenny calmly blasted home the penalty, with Glory looking increasingly confident in the closing stages of the match.
Defender James Meredith made it 3-1 with a superb drive from the edge of the box – his clean strike a collector’s item for the goal-shy player.