Glory surge seven points clear of Victory to spoil Honda's return
Keisuke Honda's return for Melbourne Victory failed to prevent Perth Glory from marching seven points clear atop the Hyundai A-League with a precious 2-1 win at AAMI Park.
Two goals in eight second-half minutes from Neil Kilkenny and Diego Castro overshadowed marquee star Honda's first appearance since December 14 and cemented Tony Popovic's team as the firm Premiers Plate favourites with nine matches remaining.
Kosta Barbarouses set up a grandstand finish by halving the deficit 12 minutes from the end but the visitors held firm in front of more than 25,000 fans.
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Honda shook off a niggling hamstring injury to take up a place among Victory's substitutes but the reigning Champions remained without Ola Toivonen's services due to the lingering effects of a knock sustained in training.
The Swede's absence afforded Elvis Kamsoba another starting opportunity and the star of last weekend's comeback win over Central Coast Mariners gave Liam Reddy his earliest piece of work with a scuffed shot on the turn.
Ivan Franjic sliced an inviting volley wide of the near post at the other end in an up-tempo start that mirrored the intensity in the stands.
Despite the willingness of both sets of players, shooting opportunities were scant until Kenny Athiu tested Liam Reddy at his near post in the shadows of half-time.
Chris Ikonomidis drew a sharp save from Lawrence Thomas following some neat interplay on the edge of the area, before Glory seized full control of a tight and tense contest.
Kilkenny broke the deadlock from the spot in the 61st minute, beating Thomas from the spot after Corey Brown was penalised for a handball in the box, and the advantage was quickly doubled when Ikonomidis crossed for captain Castro to acrobatically volley home.
Kevin Muscat turned to Honda in search of a response that eventually came through Barbarouses, the forward clinically dispatching Leigh Broxham's reverse pass, but Perth held their nerve to record a second successive away win over their title rivals.
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