Scintillating Glory send humbled young Phoenix back to sixth
A battered and bruised Wellington Phoenix will play Melbourne Victory in an Elimination Final after bearing the brunt of Perth Glory’s best in a 5-0 rout at HBF Park.
The Premiers issued a firm pre-Finals Series statement on Sunday as Diego Castro, Chris Ikonomidis and substitute Brendon Santalab piled on the pain following Andy Keogh's brace of first-half headers.
Mark Rudan made several changes for the long trip across the ditch and his remodelled side had no answers to the onslaught, the chastening defeat ensuring they slip below Melbourne City and back to sixth.
That means a date with Victory at AAMI Park on Friday night, while an in-form Perth will cool their heels ahead of the Semi Finals.
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Perth dominated from the outset with Oli Sail – standing in for Phoenix's first-choice gloveman Filip Kurto – required to deny Keogh at point-blank range.
The Irish striker didn't have to wait long to break Glory's record for most goals in a single season as he nodded in the rebound from Castro's initial header against the crossbar in the 24th minute.
His second of the match and 15th of a prolific campaign followed seven minutes later, Jason Davidson this time supplying the left-sided delivery.
Keogh fluffed a golden chance for a first-half hat-trick before exciting teenager Ben Waine went close for Wellington, but the largely one-way traffic continued after the interval.
The masterful Castro clinically dispatched Ivan Franjic's cut-back in the 51st minute and then sent Ikonomidis clean through on goal for Perth's fourth shortly after the hour.
Castro, who signed a two-season contract extension during the week, then lashed an effort against the upright as Mark Rudan eventually called for experienced reinforcements in the shape of Michal Kopczynski and Golden Boot winner Roy Krishna.
The game was well and truly gone by then and the carnage was complete when 36-year-old Santalab stretched to tap in Joel Chianese's clever pass across the face in the 83rd minute.
Glory's resounding victory sees them finish eight points clear of second-placed Sydney FC.
Catch up with the action as it unfolded in our live blog below!