It was a dramatic night at nib Stadium that saw Sydney FC reduced to nine men, Perth Glory to 10 and the home team's two newest signings concede penalties, but the Sky Blues secured a crucial 3-1 win thanks to some brilliance from Bernie Ibini.
New Glory arrivals Dragan Paljic and Denis Kramar both conceded penalties that were taken advantage of for Sydney by Marc Janko and Milos Dimitrijevic, but that only told part of the story of a dramatic night.
Perth's Dino Djulbic and Sydney's Jacques Faty received simultaneous red cards after clashing in the 35th minute and then the visitors were down to nine men when Nikola Petkovic received a second yellow with 20 minutes left.
The Glory then got a goal back thanks to Kramar, but it was Ibini's brilliant solo effort in the 89th minute that secured the crucial win for the Sky Blues.
What they said
“Our fight today was very impressive, that shows we’re still alive after a bumpy few games in December so I’m very proud of the team effort today and I think we deserved to win.” – Sydney FC striker Marc Janko
0-1 (Marc Janko 30')
New Glory signing Dragan Paljic was clumsy in his defending of Alex Brosque, grabbing on to the Sydney FC captain in the box and it was a relatively easy call for a penalty. Sydney's Austrian striker then stepped up to the plate to bang the ball into the top left corner to score his seventh goal of the A-League season.
0-2 (Milos Dimitrijevic 69')
Sydney FC's lead went to 2-0 with Glory's other new signing, Denis Kramar, committing a foul in the penalty area, this time losing track of Janko as he was running back with the flight of the ball, and bringing him to ground. This time it was Milos Dimitrijevic who took the penalty and had no trouble extending the lead for the visitors.
1-2 (Denis Kramar 74')
Just three minutes after the Glory took a numerical advantage over Sydney with the second yellow card for Petkovic, Scott Jamieson delivered in a terrific cross from a free-kick deep into the box. A header from Michael Thwaite ricocheted off a defender and then Kramar was there to pick up the scraps, slide along the pitch and get enough boot on the ball to send it into the net to keep Glory alive in the contest.
1-3 (Bernie Ibini)
Glory were finishing strongly and pressing for an equaliser, but when Bernie Ibini took possession with nothing but clear space between him and 'keeper Danny Vukovic, and with Michael Thwaite only in tow, it always spelt danger.
Ibini had no trouble burning off Thwaite to leave him one-on-one with Vukovic and while his initial shot was blocked, it bounced up nicely and Ibini calmly headed the ball into the open goal to secure the win.
On a night that included double red cards, another red on the back of a second yellow and two penalties, it was eventually decided by the moment of brilliance from Bernie Ibini approaching full-time.
While Glory was without Dino Djulbic and Sydney had lost both Jacques Faty and Nikola Petkovic, the game was still in the balance until Ibini showed all of his pace, skill and poise to seal the win for the Sky Blues.
Kenny Lowe and Graham Arnold both had their worries midway through the first half when they found themselves down a man each when Djulbic and Faty were sent off.
Both players got tangled up on the edge of the Glory penalty area and scenes certainly became heated. Things didn’t get out of control, but both players fired up at one another enough to receive straight red cards.
That potentially could have cost Sydney particularly when they went down to nine men, but they didn’t let it bother them and went on to score the sealer shortly after.
Back to the drawing board
What Glory coach Kenny Lowe does with new signings Paljic and Kramar in the coming weeks will now be fascinating particularly with the expected return of Mitch Nichols.
Both signings gave away penalties when they were left one-on-one in the penalty box with a Sydney attacker, and if Glory wants to maintain their place on top of the A-League they can't afford to concede such soft goals against dangerous opposition.
The Final Word
The result is a massive one for Sydney FC with them now improving to 25 points to remain clear in fifth position of Melbourne City and stay in touch with the Wellington Phoenix ahead of their massive clash with Melbourne Victory at home next Saturday.
Glory had a chance to either move two or four points on top of the second-placed Melbourne Victory, but the loss means they are just one point ahead with Adelaide United on the road on Sunday.
Perth Glory: Vukovic, Djulbic, Jamieson, Thwaite, Risdon, Marinkovic (De Silva 66'), Garcia (O'Neill 77'), Zadkovich, Maclaren, Keogh, Paljic (Kramar 46')
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Gersbach, Petkovic, Calver, Faty, Tavares (Antonis 55'), Dimitrijevic, Naumoff (Grant 45'), Brosque (Jurman 72'), Ibini, Janko
Scorers: Janko 31', Dimitrijevic 69', Kramar 74', Ibini 89'
Red cards: Djulbic 35', Faty 35', Petkovic 71'
Yellow cards: Paljic 30', Djulbic 31', Petkovic 28', Kramar 68', Petkovic 71', Dimitrijevic 73'
Conditions: 31 degrees, Fine