Perth Glory’s match-winner Joel Chianese has called on his teammates to make history by becoming the first six seeds to lift the Hyundai A-League Championship.
Tony Popovic’s outfit were a penalty shootout away from being crowned Champions for the first time in the 2019 Finals Series before suffering Grand Final heartbreak at the hands of Sydney FC – but Chianese insists that this time it’s different.
Glory lost four of their last five regular season games to slide down to sixth but the Western Australian club overcome third-seeds Wellington Phoenix, 1-0, in Saturday’s Elimination Final as Chianese’s 18th-minute rifled strike set up a rematch with the Premiers and defending Champion Sky Blues in a mouth-watering Semi-Final showdown.
As runaway Premiers last season, Perth went into the Finals Series with a target on their backs but Chianese believes that, as underdogs, getting the better of a gritty Glory side will be an entirely different story.
“Last year, we were the ones everyone was catching – that everyone wanted to beat,” Chianese said.
“We got to the Grand Final and it just didn’t happen on the day.”
“No team has done it from sixth position and gone all the way and won the Grand Final – so this is the chance to create a bit of history if we can stay together and everyone is fit.
“You never know in these games, it’s one off. It’s such a different knockout tournament with this covid period so hopefully we can go all the way now.”
Ufuk Talay’s Wellington side played their way into their own club history books with a first ever top-three league finish this season and the Kiwi club dominated possession and led the shot count 31-15 at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
But an experienced Glory side, led by a flawless display from 39-year-old gloveman Liam Reddy, battled and scrapped their way to a clean sheet to ignite their dreams of finally lifting the Championship trophy.
“It’s about stepping up when the moment is there.”
“I knew as soon as soon as I hit it, it was going in the corner,” Chianese added.
“It was a good feeling and then it was just about holding on. Wellington threw everything they could at us.”
WATCH: Elimination Final highlights – Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Perth Glory
‘It doesn’t get bigger’
Tony Popovic admits that having 10 days of build-up for the Elimination Final was the ideal preparation for the biggest match of their season.
But to claim the Championship title, Glory will need to win another two matches in the next seven days – and Popovic believes Steve Corica’s Sky Blues will be the perfect test of Perth’s mettle.
“I’m excited,” Popovic said. “We playing the best in Sydney FC and righty so, they were the Premiers.
“It doesn’t get bigger than that. If you want to win it, you have to beat the best.
“I’m sure the players will need to recover first. There will be a lot of adrenaline on Wednesday night for a big match and they will be ready for it.”
Wellington’s star defender Steven Taylor cut a deflated figure and insists the ‘Nix have to grow from their crushing Elimination Final losses from over the past two years.
“For me, we’ve just got to try and get better for next year,” Taylor said.
“Finals last year, Finals this years, but obviously we want to do better.
“We’ve got to learn from it and put that right next year.”
WATCH: Taylor’s post-match interview – ‘We need to learn from this’
Elimination Final 2
Brisbane Roar v Western United FC
When: Sunday, August 23
Kick-off: 6pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView