Perth Glory has ended Western Sydney’s seven-match winning streak, holding the Hyundai A-League leaders to a thrilling 2-2 draw at nib Stadium on Saturday night.
After conceding a penalty in the second minute, the Wanderers found an equaliser through one of the best set-piece plays of the season just 18 minutes later.
Perth youngster Mitch Oxborrow sent the local crowd into a frenzy on the hour mark when he nailed a free kick from 30 yards out and the men in purple appeared headed for an unlikely victory.
But former Glory winger Mitch Nichols netted his sixth goal of the season nine minutes from full-time to snatch a point for the Wanderers.
1-0 Diego Castro (2’ pen) – Just 73 seconds into the match, the Spaniard was brought down in the penalty area by Aaron Redmayne as the Wanderers goalkeeper dived for the ball and referee Jarred Gillett immediately pointed to the spot. The Glory winger took the resultant penalty, slotting the ball into the bottom left corner to give the home side an unlikely early lead.
1-1 Brendon Santalab (20’) – In a passage of play sure to be replayed several times this season, Dario Vidosic went short to Mitch Nicholls from a corner kick before the ball found its way to Scott Jamieson at the top of the box. Jamieson then drove the ball hard into the penalty area before Santalab finished the job on the edge of the six-yard box.
2-1 Mitch Oxborrow (60’) – The left-footed youngster brilliantly curled a free kick from just over 30 yards into the top-right corner, catching a flat-footed Redmayne off guard and sending the parochial Perth crowd into raptures.
2-2 Mitch Nichols (81’) – Substitute Federico Piovaccari danced around three Glory players before spotting an unmarked Nichols at the top of the box. The former Perth winger calmly slotted the ball from slightly left of centre into the top right corner to ensure the entertaining match would finish on level terms.
With only Redmayne to beat, Chris Harold looked set to capitalise on a clever overhead pass from Richard Garcia in the 84th minute and steal an unlikely victory for the home side, only for Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley to outbody the speedy Perth attacker before he could line up his final touch.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The Wanderers had conceded only three goals during their seven-match winning streak, but still retain a remarkable for-and-against record of 15-5 from their past eight matches, and 18-10 for the season.
Veteran striker Mark Bridge, who had scored in each of his past four matches, failed to overcome a groin injury in time to take his place up front for the Wanderers. Glory midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic (hamstring) and Marc Warren (foot) were also ruled out before kick-off, while attacking trio Richard Garcia, Chris Harold and Jamal Reiners started on the bench for the home side.
THE FINAL WORD
After three games in eight days, Glory will be delighted to have collected seven out of a possible nine points from those contests. Perth coach Kenny Lowe managed his squad perfectly over that period and will be confident a well-recovered side can continue their mid-season resurgence against the stumbling Melbourne Victory on December 27. The performance of the local talent is also encouraging.
Someone was always going to end Western Sydney’s run at some point, but few would have predicted it would be Perth to do what seven teams before them could not do. However, Wanderers boss Tony Popovic is unlikely to be fazed by the results given he was without Bridge and Dimas for the trip over the Nullabor and he will be eyeing a quick response against Newcastle at Pirtek Stadium on Christmas Eve.
Perth Glory: 1.Ante COVIC (GK), 2.Alex GRANT, 7.Gyorgy SANDOR, 13.Diogo FERREIRA, 15. Hagi GLIGOR (14.Chris HAROLD 46’), 17.Diego CASTRO, 18.Mitch OXBORROW (11.Richard GARCIA 71’), 19.Josh RISDON (C), 23.Michael THWAITE, 28. Joe KNOWLES (24.Jamal REINERS 46’), 29. Aryn WILLIAMS
Western Sydney Wanderers: 3.Scott JAMIESON, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 10.Dario VIDOSIC, 11.Brendon SANTALAB (9.Federico PIOVACCARI 68’), 12.Scott NEVILLE, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO (7.Romeo CASTELEN 57’), 17.ALBERTO, 18.ANDREU, 20.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 21.Jacob PEPPER (15.Kearyn BACCUS 81’)
Scorers: Diego Castro (2’ pen), Brendon Santalab (20’), Mitch Oxborrow (60’), Mitch Nichols (81’)
Yellow cards: Mitch Oxborrow (22’), Hagi Gligor (44’), Alex Grant (49’), Alberto (65’), Andreu (71’), Josh Risdon (79’), Diego Castro (90’+2)
Red cards: Nil
Conditions: 20C, partly cloudy
Attendance: 7049 at nib Stadium