How Chelsea clash revealed Popovic's priority number one

Last night's match between Perth Glory and Chelsea may only have been a friendly, but there is plenty for both sets of fans to discuss in the fallout.

READ: Who shone in Chelsea v Glory?

REPORT: Chelsea defeat Perth at Optus Stadium

Clues about style and shape were revealed in either ends as new eras commenced in both dugouts.

Here's what we learned from Perth v Chelsea...


Given the standard of opposition, Tony Popovic would have been a brave man to come out all guns blazing against Chelsea. Instead, the Perth boss opted for a conservative approach against the Blues to nullify Maurizio Sarri’s catalogue of stars.

After fielding a 3-4-2-1 formation in the side’s first pre-season friendly last week, Popovic utilised three at the back once more against the Stamford Bridge outfit. Scott Neville and Ivan Franjic began the game in left and right wingback positions, while Alex Grant and Dino Djulbic flanked Shane Lowry in the centre.

Despite the one-off nature of the match, this was more evidence that the new Glory boss has made bolstering his side’s defensive ability his number one priority in pre-season. Perth’s soft centre has been the side’s Achilles heel at times over the past few seasons, and the challenge of Chelsea offered Glory a great opportunity to put Popovic’s ideals into practice.

Concentration, work rate off the ball and discipline are all cornerstones of the former Socceroo defender's game plan and they were all on display in an encouraging 90 minutes. Although Glory struggled to retain the ball and rode their luck at times as the post and Chelsea’s wayward finishing kept the deficit at a minimum, Popovic will likely consider the outing a success.


If there were any doubts of Brendon Santalab’s viability as an option of the bench for Glory this season, the veteran striker quelled those with a superb late cameo.

The 35-year-old arrived into the fray late on for Andy Keogh, who had cut an isolated figure for most of the game. Chelsea had their foot Perth's throat for much of the game, but Santalab’s introduction lifted the home side and disrupted the ease in which the Londoners controlled the contest.

His arrival saw a late flurry of chances for Popovic’s side, and Santalab saw two headers loop just wide and had a long-distance effort go close with the last kick of the game.

All in all, it was a solid debut for the former Western Sydney Wanderers man who will have no trouble becoming a fan favourite in Western Australia too if he keeps this up.


In a match that saw Chelsea dominate possession and control the affair through the majestic Cesc Fabregas, Glory’s moments on the ball were few and far between.

But when the hosts did push forward, Neil Kilkenny was a major player in breaking the team's shackles.

The 32-year-old used every bit of his experience to navigate Chelsea’s press and circulate the ball when possible. Kilkenny was one of few Perth players able to play the ball forward and construct passing moves for the Glory.

Kilkenny’s brave performance on the ball was complimented by a mountain of hard work , which will please his new boss even more. As the most senior midfielder in the Glory ranks, Kilkenny could be the man to steer Perth’s engine room this season.

Neil Kilkenny