Perth Glory FC has maintained its four point buffer at the top of the Hyundai A-League after a heart stopping come-from-behind 3-3 draw against title contenders Melbourne Victory in the ‘Peoples Game’ at nib Stadium.
Super-Sub Jamie Maclaren’s late equalizer in the 89th minute earned Glory a vital point after Victory led 3-1 with 12 minutes of play to go.
The first shot on target of the game saw Glory fall behind in the 18th minute, when Fahid Ben Khalfallah linked up with Gui Finkler on the edge of the penalty area.
The Tunisian began the move with some slick step overs before a neat one-two with Finkler saw him find the space to unleash a powerful shot past Danny Vukovic from the edge of the penalty box.
However Glory showed great spirit to bounce back within tww minutes to level the score. Chris Harold burst through the Victory defense to meet a sublime Ruben Zadkovich through-ball. As Harold made his way into the penalty box he was fouled by Victory custodian Nathan Coe. Referee Peter Green pointed to the spot and up stepped sharp shooter Andy Keogh who cooly slotted home his 9th Hyundai A-League goal.
Buoyed by their quick come back, the mood amongst Kenny Lowe’s men was slightly soured in the 29th minute when Harold succumbed to an ankle injury and had to be replaced. The Glory faithful were at their best however, giving a very warm welcome to new signing, Dragan Paljic, who came on to make his Glory debute.
Both sides traded blows in the middle of the park and it seemed destined to be 1-1 at half time, however Glory villain, Besart Berisha had other plans.
After Glory gave away possession in the middle of the park, Victory made a quick break with Khalfallah again proving the chief destroyer, threading through a ball to Berisha who made no mistake, firing the ball past Vukovic from 10 yards in the 42nd minute.
Perth, who were wearing their black and gold Australia Day kit, came out after the break needing to find an equalizer, but it was Victory who scored first through Kosta Barbarouses. With 57 minutes gone, an unfortunate sliding clearance from Josh Risdon fell to the New Zealander who made no mistake to bury the ball into the back of the net.
The game developed a fiery edge as Glory searched for a way back into the match. Firstly a bone-crunching challenge from Adrian Leijer on Richard Garcia left both players dazed. Leijer was again in the thick minutes later after a foul on Keogh, who gave Leijer a piece of his mind over the tackle.
Glory pushed on and made plenty of efforts to snatch a goal back and it was something the 12,271 fans-the best home attendance so far-could sniff. Then, just as he did against Sydney FC last month, up stepped Rostyn Griffiths to head home from a Nebojsa Marinkovic corner in the 78th minute to send Glory fans into raptures.
That goal sparked renewed hope for Glory and in the 89th minute super-sub Jamie Maclaren rifled home an equalizer that caused nib Stadium to erupt. Once again Glory had a goal in the latter stages of the game, testament to their physical conditioning but they weren’t finished yet.
Griffiths found himself in a yard of space in the second minute of injury time but watched as his shot deflected out of play for a corner.
Barely a minute later and a Scott Jamieson free kick caused chaos in the box giving Maclaren the opportunity to add to his equalizing goal. Once again the Victory defense was lucky to see the shot cannon into one of their players.
Referee Peter Green called an end to a highly exhilarating game at nib Stadium, scores finishing 3-3 and Glory still top of the Hyundai A-League table.
After the match, Lowe praised his players.
"We like being behind, because we relish the comeback. I'll take the draw,” he said.
“Even when we're down, we're not down. The scoreboard tells us but our players don't feel down.”
Lowe was impressed by new signing, Dragan Paljic, who was thrown into the fray in the first half due to Harold’s injury but he couldn’t say for sure how long the West Australian would miss.
He was, however, quick to reassure Glory fans that Danny De Silva would be available for the Sydney FC game in two weeks time. The starlet missed the match with illness despite being named to start.
Perth hosts Sydney FC at nib stadium on February 7.
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GOAL SCORERS: Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH 18’, Andy KEOGH 21’, Besart BERISHA 42’, Kosta BARBAROUSES 57’, Rostyn GRIFFITHS 78’, Jamie MACLAREN 89’
YELLOW CARDS: Rostyn GRIFFITHS 10’, Nathan COE 21’, Adrian LEIJER 67’, Andy KEOGH 68’, Leigh BROXHAM 75’
ATTENDANCE: 12 271
PERTH GLORY FC: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 11.Richard GARCIA (15.Jamie MACLAREN 73’), 14.Chris HAROLD (27.Dragan PALJIC 30’), 19.Josh RISDON, 21.Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c)
SUBS NOT USED: 3.Brandon O'NEIL, 30.Jordan THURTELL (gk)
COACH: Kenny LOWE
MELBOURNE VICTORY: 1.Nathan COE (gk), 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER (11.Connor PAIN 80’), 8.Besart BERISHA (22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS 86’), 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 21.Carl VALERI, 23.Adrian LEIJER,
SUBS NOT USED: 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 18. Dylan MURANE, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (gk)
Referee: Peter GREEN
Assistant Referee: Josh MANNELLA& Tim MIHEVC
Fourth Official: Adam FIELDING