Popovic's influence clear in Perth's statement win
The Tony Popovic era at Perth Glory has lift off.
It might not have been smooth sailing, but Glory’s 3-2 triumph over Melbourne Victory on Sunday night could prove to be a landmark one.
Popovic will have plenty to like about his side’s performance, and it appears his new charges are taking his footballing ideals in their stride.
Perth’s gutsy showing in Sunday’s Round 2 finale captured some of the trademarks of the former Australian defender's philosophy.
Glory held just 32.2% possession throughout the match, but mustered a defensive performance that might even hold a few candles to Western Sydney Wanderers’ famous 2014 AFC Champions League charge.
Aside from their masterful defensive organisation, the nib Stadium outfit looked ominous in transition, and it was only fitting that Popovic’s men sealed their first win under his tutelage with a classic counter attacking goal.
Goal-scoring hero Christopher Ikonomidis was at the heart of that breakaway. And there were shades of Popovic in the Australian live-wires’ post-match interview with Fox Sports.
“For a moment of the game they got on top of us but I think defensively we were rock solid back,” he said.
“Our job up the front was to push on and get us out of our back third and I think we did that, and we got a good chance on the break and I finished it off.
“They had the crowd behind them today but we just kept concentrated and stuck to our game plan which was to keep it solid in the middle and it paid off in the end.”
If Glory can continue to strike balance between defensive discipline and clinical breakaway speed, there will surely be many more tipping them as genuine title contenders for this season’s crown.
While Ikonomidis’ late heroics will steal all the headlines, it is Glory’s five-man defence that should emerge with huge plaudits.
Glory's rearguard has been their downfall in recent seasons but the formidable central trio of Alex Grant, Shane Lowry and Tomislav Mrcela is rectifying that soft centre. Wing backs Jason Davidson and Ivan Franjic have also slotted on either side with impressive aplomb.
And while Keisuke Honda finds himself on the losing side for the second week running, the Japanese play-maker offered another subtle masterclass having laid on two assists and sparked his side’s second half revival.