Perth Glory FC has etched its name in Australian football history by becoming the first club to qualify for the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup final, after defeating Victorian National Premier League side Bentleigh Greens 3-nil in Melbourne.
Three and half thousand passionate Greens fans packed the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, hoping to see a fairy tale ending to the David and Goliath semi-final cup battle but the Hyundai A-League leaders were too experienced for the semi-professional outfit.
After almost half an hour of play, Perth Glory FC broke the deadlock with a signature free kick from Nebojsa Marinkovic. Richard Garcia was fouled at the front of the box in the 28th minute leaving Marinkovic to take the kick and curl the ball perfectly under the cross bar, into the top corner, before it bounced down and back up into the roof of the net.
Perth Glory FC came close 10 minutes before half time, when Youssouf Hersi blasted a shot from distance that was saved by Greens keeper Alastair Bray but the loose ball was attacked by Glory striker Andy Keogh who skied his shot over the bar.
Heading into the half-time break, Perth had almost 70-percent of possession but the Greens created opportunities which at times caused some trouble for Perth’s back line.
Josh Risdon came on for Jack Clisby in the left back position at the re-start and it was only minutes into the second half when Marinkovic added his second goal for the night and his fifth for the FFA Cup.
Skipper Michael Thwaite threaded a neat ball to Keogh, who in turn teed up Marinkovic who cleverly nutmegged his defender to slot the ball home in the 50th minute.
Bentleigh, spurred on by a loyal and vocal band of supporters continued to fight and create chances from distance but never caused Perth custodian Danny Vukovic any major worries.
West Australian Jamie De Abreu was busy on the right hand flank for the Greens but he was let down by some ordinary finishing from his strikers when he whipped the ball into the danger zone.
In the 85th minute Chris Harold killed-off the game with an excellent finish after Risdon cut the ball back to him, and fired the ball past Bray. Harold celebrated with his arms stretched out like a plane. And why not, Perth were flying into the first FFA Cup Final, boasting the competition's two top goal scorers in Keogh and Marinkovic (5 goals each).
Perth Glory FC will head into the FFA Cup Final with 13 goals from four qualifying matches. It has conceded only three.
Coach Kenny Lowe paid tribute to Bentleigh who were beaten but not outdone. He also praised his team for commanding the game from the outset.
“It was another honest performance, we rotated a few boys around to come in with fresh legs and that’s helped us so yes I am happy, very happy to be a part of football history” Lowe said proudly.
Perth Glory’s opponent won’t be known until tomorrow night when Adelaide United host Central Coast.
However Lowe hoped Perth could host the Cup final at nib Stadium.
“I think we’ve earned the right to make the claim yes. We’re in the final, so it’s a chance for WA to come out and show its support for the game” he said.
Football Federation Australia has set December 16 and 17 as provisional dates for the Westfield FFA Cup Final, however a clear decision on where and when it will be played won’t be known until next week.
Goal Scorers :Marinkovic '28 '50, Harold '85
Yellow Cards: '23 Matthews, '37 Clisby, '68 Garcia, '71 Webster,
Perth Glory FC: 1. Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 2. Jack CLISBY ('45 19. Josh RISDON), , 6. Dino DJULBIC, 7. Youssouf HERSI ('65 4. Chris HAROLD), 9. Andy KEOGH, 10. Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 11. Richard GARCIA, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Chris HAROLD , 20. Daniel DE SILVA, 21. Scott JAMIESON, 22 Cameron EDWARDS 23. Michael THWAITE (C), 24. Rostyn GRIFFITHS ('83 3. Brandon O’NEILL)
Unused Subs: 22 Cameron EDWARDS, 30. Jordan THURTELL(GK)
Bentleigh Greens SC: 2. Thomas MATTHEWS, 3. James CUMMING, 5. Jack WEBSTER, 7.Jamie DE ABREU, 8. Wayne WALLACE (C) 9. Luke O'DEA ( '89 16. Nick TEICHMAN), 12. Christian CAVALLO, 19. Liam MCCORMICK ('65 4.Patrick AVICE), 21. Alistair BRAY(GK) 24. Luke PILKINGTON
Unused Subs: 1. Christian VAN KORLER (GK) 13. Ryan LOSTY, 22 Lewis FOSTER
BIG WEEK OF FOOTBALL
The FFA Cup Semi-Final win caps off an incredible week for all Perth Glory FC teams. While the men's team sits on top of the Hyundai A-League ladder, the Women's team also sits well clear on top of the W-League and the Youth Team leads the Foxtel National Youth League.
Perth Glory FC will now prepare for another big clash when it hosts the Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night (November 15).
Lowe urged all Perth Glory FC fans to come along and show their support.
“Again this match has the hallmarks of a great game, they’re the Asian Champions, and we’re the FFA Cup finalists and on top of the Hyundai A-League ladder so from a fan’s perspective could there be a better match?” he said.
Tickets to the game are still available at www.perthglory.com.au
Kick-off is at 6.30pm.