Perth Glory 1-0 Western Sydney Wanderers
By Ben Gilby (23/1/22)
Above: Perth Glory celebrates Deborah-Ann de la Harpe’s (centre) stunning free-kick which sealed an important three points. Photo: Perth Glory.
A sensational free-kick from Deborah-Ann de la Harpe, a player in outstanding form, gave Perth Glory a positive ending to another tough week for the club.
Glory put in a dominant offensive performance in the first half without reward, but five minutes into the second 45, they got the goal their efforts deserved. The Western Australian side are now only a point outside the Finals places.
Western Sydney Wanderers handed a first appearance to Alex Huynh as per head coach Catherine Cannuli’s hints in the pre-match press conference, she started for the first time since returning to the club from Fortuna Hjørring.
Perth were without Susan Phonsongkham, Cyera Hintzen, Gemma Craine, and Sarah Carroll amongst others. One positive was the return of Alana Jancevski on the bench. Head coach Alex Epakis, out of isolation after testing positive for COVID last weekend, had spoken pre-game about concerns about a flat start from his team after the devastating news late in the week that the Western Australian state border will remain closed, effectively rendering his team stranded in New South Wales.
Wanderers had the first opportunity of the game when Erica Galloway forced a misdirected backpass from Abbey Green along the right which allowed Bryleeh Henry to get a shot in from a tight angle that went wide.
Immediately afterward, another piece of loose play from Perth gave Western Sydney a corner. Henry played a delightful nutmeg through Mie Leth-Jans’ legs with Tash Rigby tidying up at the cost of another corner.
Also prominent for Wanderers in the early stages was the 15-year-old Alexia Apostolakis who was connecting her team well with passes through the midfield and standing up impressively to De Vanna.
After a period of careful passing to keep possession, Glory almost took the lead. Leth-Jans gained possession in a crowded midfield and played a ball out to Deborah-Ann de la Harpe who was in space on the right. The midfielder curled a ball into the box around Danika Matos towards Sofia Sakalis whose effort came off Clare Hunt who was then able to clear off of the line.
The Western Australians were able to penetrate the Western Sydney defence again with Sakalis combining well with De Vanna down the left which Huynh did well to clear for a corner. Perth continued to build, but it all ended with Leth Jans’ effort troubling the water across the road from the stadium more than it did Sarah Langman in the Wanderers goal.
The corners were beginning to rack up for Perth with de la Harpe consistently curling them dangerously into the near post. The midfielder was also full of running down the right and providing consistent accurate passes into the stride of her teammates.
Another dangerous corner from de la Harpe from the left was met with a powerful header by an unmarked Leth Jans which Langman pushed onto the bar and then knocked forward as it bounced down.
de la Harpe was involved once more in the action after she was found in space at the back post by Hana Lowry, but Rosie Galea got back in time to put a tackle in to deny the 21-year-old Perth star who is in the form of her life.
The Western Australians hit the bar again just before the break when de la Harpe’s ball in from the left was met by the head of Sakalis. Langman was beaten, but she was saved by the woodwork. Despite all the Perth pressure, it remained goalless at the break.
Western Sydney’s central defensive pair of Huynh and Hunt both received yellow cards in the opening three minutes of the second half. From the latter, Perth was awarded a free-kick just outside the box to the left, parallel with the penalty spot. Up stepped de la Harpe to fire a curling rocket shot into the far corner of the net. A sensational way to score a first A-League Women’s goal.
Perth continued to dominate and Lowry came close after being fed by De Vanna with her back to goal in the ‘D’. The 18-year-old turned and shot with Huynh dispatching the ball away at the cost of a corner.
Whilst the Wanderers were seen more from an offensive perspective in the second half, Perth had the majority of the chances.
With 13 minutes to go, they should have doubled their lead when substitute Leena Khamis was played in with a ball over the top, but Langman stood up strong to repel her effort away for a corner.
Khamis had another golden opportunity when she was found by the newly arrived Aideen Keane, but again her effort was repelled by the Wanderers goalkeeper.
Despite missing these final chances, Perth held on comfortably to record their third win of the season – a result that lifts them to fifth place – just one point away from Melbourne Victory in third.
Reflecting on events, Western Sydney Wanderers defender Alex Huynh said: “They had the momentum. We did well to absorb the pressure. Credit to Perth, they have been hammering us. With a team like Perth, we need to respect them, but I think we showed them too much respect.”
A disappointed Wanderers goalkeeper Sarah Langman was extremely disappointed post-match: “We need to do better in the final third, to be honest. Defensively we were OK. We just need to have more shots in general.”
Lisa De Vanna spoke about the difficulties of the week that her team overcome. “I’m a bit sore, but luckily I have the young players to do the running for me. I don’t think I’m quite right still, but another game or so I’ll get there. Overall I’m very proud of the girls because you can see a lot of heart which drives me to push a bit.
It was a good win after the news in the week (the Western Australia state border remaining closed indefinitely). I’m devastated about the Premier making those calls, particularly as I wanted to finish my career in front of home fans.
“The response this weekend has been great, I think every WA sporting team has won. We’re showing that we can come across adversity.”
Alex Epakis was full of pride in his team’s performance afterward. “After the Newcastle game, we realized that we put together a performance for 70% of the match, and the focus this week was to pull that to 90 and 100% and we absolutely did that.
“For me it was the best performance we’ve had over the two seasons (that I’ve been head coach). We controlled the match from start to finish. They didn’t have many chances. We just needed to score a couple more goals for it to be an absolutely perfect performance.”
With his team now just a point outside the Finals places, Perth’s head coach outlined how this matches up with his pre-season aims. “I knew pre-season that, with the squad we had, despite having a lot of new faces…I knew we’d have players with the right attitude and mentality. Our position now for me is justifiable. I know people outside the club didn’t really expect that as they wrote us off from day one.”
With the state border closure extended indefinitely, it has been another tough week for the club, but the players’ response continued to be impressive as Epakis underlined: “They’re like absolute champions. I only got out of isolation myself yesterday, but the whole group have been fantastic. Every session that I watched on video whilst I wasn’t there was good.
“With the news that then came through later in the week, we made sure that we drew a line in the sand and said that the only way we could respond to it was through our performance on the field. It’s our only way to express how we feel and we did it in a way that would make us proud, and I think we did that today.”
It was another impressive display from both Deborah-Ann de la Harpe and Hana Lowry as Perth’s coach recognized: “They’ve both been great over the last two weeks, good contributors to the team’s performances. Deb has found form at the right time of the season and made a huge contribution. The goal was fantastic, but there were other really good things that she did in general play.
“With Hana, as she has Sadie (Lawrence) and Mie (Leth Jans) being behind her, it means that she just has the support to be free and attack, doing the things she needs to do help us in the front third. The experienced spine behind her is a big help.”
Epakis also addressed the fact that Gemma Craine was not in the squad today by stating: “She doesn’t have COVID, she just was not selected for tactical reasons. She’s fit, healthy, and ready to contribute to the team this week.”
He also emphasized the fact that will be making sure that his side will not be resting on their laurels after this performance: “It’s very important that we do assess the game. Although the majority of the performance was good, I know that we can do better. We’ve got a high at the moment, we’ve got momentum, the group is buzzing and we just want to harness that for as long as we can.”
Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-2-3-1): Aquino, Green, K.Carroll, Anton, Rigby, Leth Jans, Lawrence, Lowry, De Vanna, de la Harpe, Sakalis. Substitutes: Cain, Keane, Jancevski, L.Khamis, Newbon (GK).
Scorers: de la Harpe 50′.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Langman, Matos, Hunt, Huynh, Apostolakis, Galea, Price, Cooper, Halloway, Henry, Copus-Brown. Substitutes: Collister, Galic, Gallagher, Allen, S.Khamis (GK).
Referee: Rebecca Mackie.