Friday, April 5, 2013

Victory, with a little bit of luck

Archie Thompson celebrates after scoring the second goal for his team in extra-time against Perth Glory.

Archie Thompson celebrates after scoring the second goal for his team in extra-time against Perth Glory. Photo: Getty Images

When your luck's in, it's in - and that is why Melbourne Victory will be heading to New South Wales next weekend to face Central Coast Mariners in an A-League semi-final and Perth Glory's season has come to what, on the evidence of Friday night's elimination final performance, is a premature end.

Glory looked to be heading for a deserved win having been the better side through much of the match. But when Perth striker Shane Smeltz missed a penalty which would have put his side 2-0 up with two minutes left Victory galvanised itself for one final effort, went down the other end of the pitch and won a penalty when Steve Pantelidis held on to substitute Andrew Nabbout.

Referee Jared Gillett pointed to the spot, showed ex-Victory defender Pantelidis a red card, and Mark Milligan, who had conceded the spot kick at the other end that should have seen his side eliminated minutes earlier, stepped forward and slammed home a 90th minute equaliser. Victory took only four minutes of extra-time to get its nose in front, Archie Thompson converting from a Marco Rojas cross.

That was enough to give the host a 2-1 win, a cruel end for a Glory side that had played with structure, cohesion and fluency for 90 minutes against a Victory team that, for the most part, lacked the rhythm and invention that had characterised its better performances this season.


This was a game that started slowly, in contrast to the expectation for finals matches where the tempo is usually faster.

Like two fighters stalking each other in the ring during the early rounds of a a title fight, both sides jabbed with little conviction and warily probed for a weakness, careful all the while not to give an opportunity away.

But as is often the case in a boxing match, one explosive moment can change things and alter the shape of the contest, and that moment came a quarter of an hour in when the visiting side took the lead through Japanese striker Ryo Nagai after a dreadful blunder by Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe.

Scott Jamieson, Glory's left back, got clear on the left and delivered a well-flighted cross to the edge of Victory's six yard box - an area where goalkeepers are expected to come and claim the ball. Coe came but only half heartedly, and as he dithered he missed everything, the ball falling to Nagai who improvised cleverly to chest the ball into the unguarded net.

It was the visitors who continued to look the most likely through a first half in which, driven by skipper Jacob Burns, they played with composure, structure and tactical discipline.

It was not exactly thrill-a-minute stuff, but at this stage of proceedings it suited Glory far more than Victory.

Victory coach Ange Postecoglou had said pre-game that his side believed in its attacking prowess and felt that when it got things right it was very hard to hold out.

For 45 minutes that simply wasn't the case. Victory lacked cohesion and creativity and was reliant on bursts of individual excellence to manufacture something from nothing, difficult when the front three - Archie Thompson, Conor Pain and Marco Rojas - were getting little change from a well marshalled Glory defence.

Rojas almost conjured an equaliser when he intercepted a pass, his driving run carrying him to the edge of the box before he offloaded a pass to Leigh Broxham. It was the best opportunity Victory had in the opening period, but Josh Risdon got across to block the midfielder's shot and snuff out the danger.

Postecoglou went to his bench shortly after the re-start, replacing teenage full-back Jason Geria with Argentinian marquee player Marcos Flores, dropping utility Broxham to full-back as Victory sought to lift the tempo.

But Perth remained calm and focused under pressure, and it was a wonderful raking long ball from Liam Miller that set Smeltz up for a strike that should have settled this game, the forward taking a touch before getting his shot off. Coe produced a terrific save, partly redeeming his earlier blunder. It wasn't to be the last time Smeltz didn't make it count when he should have.


Perth had a golden opportunity to snare a two-goal lead seal its progression, and Melbourne's elimination, in the 88th minute when Shane Smeltz was given a chance to convert the penalty won by Scott Jamieson. Smeltz thundered the ball against the underside of the bar generating arguably the most vibrant response of the match from the Victory supporters. Within five minutes that response was bettered twice: first by former Victory defender Steve Pantelidis' concession of a penalty, then Mark Milligan's conversion of it to take the match to extra time.


Melbourne Victory: Nathan Coe; Scott Galloway (Andrew Nabbout 84'), Daniel Mullen, Adrian Leijer, Jason Geria (Marcos Flores 48'); Leigh Broxham (Spase Dilevski 109'), Mark Milligan, Billy Celeski; Connor Pain, Archie Thompson, Marco Rojas. Subs: Tando Velaphi, Jonathan Bru.

Perth Glory: Danny Vukovic; Scott Jamieson, Michael Thwaite, Steve Pantelidis, Josh Risdon; Ryo Nagai, Matias Cordoba (Steve McGarry 97'), Jacob Burns (c), Adrian Zahra (Dean Heffernan 63'); Liam Miller, Shane Smeltz. Subs: Lewis Italiano, Jack Clisby, Daniel De Silva.


Melbourne Victory: Rojas 45+', Geria 48', Broxham 53', Celeski 71', Leijer 75'. Perth Glory: Jamieson 15', Pantelidis 68'.


Perth Glory: Pantelidis 90'.

REFEREE: Gillett

CROWD: 22,902 at Etihad Stadium



Adelaide v Brisbane, Hindmarsh Stadium, 5pm


Friday, April 12

Western Sydney v winner Adelaide/Brisbane, Parramatta Stadium, 7.30pm

Sunday, April 14

Central Coast v Melbourne Victory, Bluetongue Stadium, 5pm


Sunday, April 21 - Jesse Hogan
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