Brazilian star earns Al-Ahli dramatic late equaliser

A stoppage time goal from former Brazilian international Grafite denied Perth Glory victory in Tuesday night’s pre-season friendly clash with Dubai-based glamour club Al-Ahli.

A stoppage time goal from former Brazilian international Grafite denied Perth Glory victory in Tuesday night-s pre-season friendly clash with Dubai-based glamour club Al-Ahli.

A goal from club skipper Jacob Burns had given the home side a deserved lead just before the break and they remained in total control for most of the second period before Grafite-s late header earned the Red Knights a share of the spoils.

The home side looked fresh and lively on their return from a successful trip to South Africa, dominating for long periods and only a string of impressive saves from visitors- goalkeeper Obaid Al Taweela prevented them from transferring that superiority onto the scoresheet.

Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson again opted to employ the 4-2-3-1 formation that he has preferred throughout the pre-season campaign, with Josh Risdon, Todd Howarth, Josh Mitchell and Bas van den Brink comprising the back four, Adam Hughes and Jacob Burns filling the holding roles in midfield behind Travis Dodd, Andrezinho and Mile Sterjovski, with Shane Smeltz operating as the spearhead.

It was the visitors, however, who looked the more purposeful in the early exchanges, with Chilean international Luis Jimenez pulling the strings in midfield and Brazilian strike duo Grafite and Ja-Ja asking plenty of questions of the new-look Glory back four.

Ja-Ja had several sighters at goal within the first ten minutes, but failed to trouble Danny Vukovic with any of them and having weathered the early storm, Glory started to impose themselves upon the contest and carve out some decent chances of their own.

Adam Hughes managed to get on the end of two inch-perfect corners from Dodd and Sterjovski only to head narrowly over the bar on both occasions, while on 24 minutes the impressive Risdon picked out Sterjovski with a raking 40 yard ball but having cut inside and beaten his marker, the former Socceroo blazed his angled shot high of Al Taweela-s goal.

Andrezinho was becoming increasingly influential as the half progressed and the diminutive Brazilian was heavily involved in an intricate move that almost yielded the opening goal five minutes before the break. He cleverly drew several defenders, opening up a gap that allowed Risdon to overlap and whip in a cross which Smeltz met with a firm headed effort that drew a decent sprawling save from Al Taweela.

It looked as if the visitors might just hang on to the break, but the hosts continued to pile on the pressure and finally earned their reward. Howarth got away down the left and although Al Taweela produced a fine save to tip Dodd-s- header onto the bar, the rebound fell kindly for Burns whose low strike evaded several Al-Ahli defenders and squeezed over the line.

Ferguson opted to make just the one change for the start of the second-half, introducing in-form Bayswater striker Gustavo Maralunda for Andrezinho and Glory immediately went close to doubling their advantage. Risdon was again the provider, picking out Smeltz with a superb cross from the right flank and the Kiwi striker forced another acrobatic save from Al Taweela with a powerful ten-metre header.

Hughes was the next in line to test the increasingly busy Al Taweela, stinging his palms with a 25 metre effort on the hour mark and the contest then turned a little feisty as Burns and Grafite clashed right in front of the two benches.

Chris Coyne, Tommy Amphlett and Scott Neville were the next to join the action from the Glory bench, but the changes did little to disrupt the home side-s momentum and on 76 minutes Hughes could and perhaps should, have made the game safe. Sterjovski-s corner delivery was again pinpoint, but having climbed above his marker, the former Adelaide midfielder steered his header wide.

In a rare moment of goalmouth action at the other end, meanwhile, Ja-Ja again failed to hit the target after a goalmouth scramble and moments later Vukovic was called into action to make a regulation save from Tareq-s long-range curler.

It looked as if Glory would see out the final moments fairly comfortably, but when Ahmed Ali made a rare break down the right, Grafite showed the predatory instincts that made him a Bundesliga legend at Wolfsburg to head home from close range.

Pre-Season Friendly

Perth Glory 1 (Burns 41-) Al-Ahli 1 (Grafite 90+3-) nib Stadium Referee: David Costello

Perth Glory line up:1. Danny VUKOVIC, 2. Josh MITCHELL (6. Chris COYNE 64-), 3. Bas Van den Brink, 7. Jacob BURNS (24. Blamo QUA QUA 87-), 8. Adam HUGHES, 9. Shane SMELTZ (5. Steven BURTON 80-), 13. Travis DODD (15. Tommy AMPHLETT, 64-), 17. Todd HOWARTH, 19. Josh RISDON (12. Scott NEVILLE 76-), 21. Mile STERJOVSKI, 23. Andrezinho (25. Gustavo MARALUNDA 46-)

Substitutes not used: 20.Neil YOUNG, Yellow cards: nil Red cards: nil

Al-Ahli lineup: 90.) Obaid Al Taweela, 4.) Ahmed Ali, 5.) Qassem, 6.) Khaled, 12.) Abud, 14.) Tareq, 20.) Luis Jimenez, 23.) Grafite, 29.) Ali Hussein, 44.) Bader, 50.) Ja-Ja

Substitutes not used: 34.) Bahri, 96.) Mohamed Yousuf, 2.) Salmeen, 7.) Obaid Khalifa, 13.) Salem, 77.) Yousuf Said, 97.) Juma, 71.) Darwish, 31.) Essa Jassem, 35.) Abdulla Drachma Yellow cards: Khaled 32-, Jimenez 34- Red cards: nil