Melbourne Victory 0-2 Perth Glory
Above: Perth Glory celebrate their opening goal at AAMI Park. Photo: Perth Glory
By Ben Gilby (19/2/22)
Perth Glory produced a hugely creditable performance that combined organization and offensive quality to gain a vital win in the Finals race at Melbourne Victory.
Whilst Jeff Hopkins’ side has games in hand to overhaul Perth in the long run, the Glory have now claimed impressive wins against both Adelaide United and now the defending champions.
Victory brought Lia Privitelli and Tiff Eliadis into the starting line-up for injured Amy Jackson and Mindy Barbieri who went down to the bench. Emma Robers came in as a substitute.
Perth Glory made a number of changes, with 18-year-old former Melbourne Victory train-on Claudia Mihocic making her debut. There were also some notable returnees as Susan Phonsongkham was back after suspension and Alana Jancevski was back in the matchday squad after several weeks after COVID. Alex Epakis needed to make a late change in goal after original starter Morgan Aquino hurt a finger in the warm-up which necessitated Courtney Newbon to come in.
Whilst the home side started on the front foot, the Glory defence was largely solid. Cyera Hintzen provided the visitors’ first opportunity on the counter as she released Phonsongkham who lofted a ball towards goal but Casey Dumont gathered comfortably.
Perth continued to grow into the game. With a quarter of an hour on the clock, Hana Lowry laid off to Hintzen in the centre-circle who returned the favour to the teenager who moved out to the right flank. Lowry curled a ball into the box around the Victory defence for Sofia Sakalis. The finish was disappointing, but the move was class.
Equally class was Catherine Zimmerman’s effort shortly afterward. Kyra Cooney-Cross found Alex Chidiac who, in turn, played in Courtney Nevin. The Matilda fed Zimmerman who turned away from her marker and curled an effort which narrowly went over the bar with Newbon beaten.
Victory were narrowly denied again on the half-hour when Zimmerman beat Deborah-Ann de la Harpe down the right and clipped a ball in which Newbon needed to tip over for a corner.
At the same time, Jeff Hopkins’ injury headaches increased with Alana Murphy needing to leave the pitch with an ankle concern with Mindy Barbieri coming on.
After riding out a ten-minute spell of Victory ascendency, Perth rebounded with Hintzen showing her dangerous pace against Nevin once more to get a shot away which Dumont pushed away.
It remained goalless at the break, but with Victory having had a big game just two days earlier against league leaders Sydney FC, the visitors knew that an energetic start in the second half could leave their hosts feeling the strain.
Polly Doran was masterminding Melbourne Victory’s positive opening to the second half, driving along the right to get balls across, but again, the Western Australian defence was comfortable.
Perth were patient and considered in their build-ups, looking to keep possession when possible to maximize the amount of running Victory had to do before looking to create out wide. From one such move, a powerful run from Sarah Cain through the middle found Phonsongkham whose teasing ball in was put out for a corner which Dumont dealt with comfortably.
Lisa De Vanna’s arrival aided Perth’s momentum. She added energy along the left with the Matildas legend quickly earning a corner. de la Harpe pulled a dangerous one into the mix of the six-yard box with Mie Leth Jans getting a header in that Eliadis had to clear off of the line.
Perth continued to dial up the pressure, earning two further corners which the hosts had to hack away. Further offensive pressure came with the introduction of Aideen Keane and Leena Khamis.
From yet another corner, de la Harpe bent one in from the left which was meant by a flick header from Leth Jans which came back off Withers and Zimmerman and rolled into the net.
Glory continued the pressure with Victory dropping off and allowing them to dominate the possession.
De Vanna fed Hintzen who turned and found the veteran star once more. Her low ball into the near post was met by Khamis who slid an effort narrowly wide.
The pressure was rewarded with a second Perth goal in four minutes. Keane got away from Nevin comfortably along the right and played a cross into the near post which Hintzen brilliantly back flicked towards Khamis who headed home into an empty net.
Glory’s experienced duo combined with 15 minutes left as De Vanna found Khamis who rounded Eliadis and rifled in a curler which Dumont pushed away equally as impressively.
With six minutes to play, Barbieri crashed a shot in which came back of Jancevski’s arm outside the box. The Perth teenager didn’t know much about it, but referee Rebecca Mackie had no option in awarding a free kick. Barbieri hit her free-kick over the bar.
Zimmerman provided Emma Robers with a great opportunity at the death but the sub shinned an effort well wide.
Perth saw out the remaining time to earn another hugely impressive win. Being on the road for over two months now and battling a COVID outbreak, Alex Epakis’ side has gone above and beyond this season. The spirit is strong and the potential endless.
Melbourne Victory’s Lia Privitelli said: “Both teams need to win today and we went really hard at it. We needed to keep the ball more and be composed.”
Perth Glory’s Leena Khamis was thrilled afterward with the character of her team: “I’m super excited. We needed to win to stay alive in the fight for the final four. We knew we needed a goal to win. We went for it. The girls are brilliant. It’s a great bunch of girls and a great coaching staff.”
Victory’s Alex Chidiac was a picture of frustration post-match. “We’re depleted in energy. We’ve been a one half team too often this season and we need to build that up. It’s really difficult playing so many games. We have to move past this game and move on to Canberra on Tuesday.”
In his post-match media conference, Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis spoke of his huge pride in the result. “Oh, it’s a massive win. The playing group and I just spoke in the changing room about it. It was a special performance. We know that if performances are good over these three weeks the Finals will take care of themselves.
“It was a controlled performance, we stuck to the game plan from minute one to minute 90. I’m thrilled, I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Epakis was particularly pleased with the way his players took on board his key message ahead of the game. “All week we talked about capitalizing on moments. We had moments against Melbourne City last week which if we had capitalized on, the result would have been different. Today we capitalized on those moments.”
Perth’s head coach named a bench consisting solely of attacking players (apart from a goalkeeper). “For me, we have that have the mentality of attacking the game. It was probably the first time all season that we had all of those players fit at the same time and it made a difference. We’re not here to draw games, we’re here to win them.”
Whilst Perth’s attacking weapons will take the headlines, young Claudia Mihocic made her debut in the backline and Epakis had no doubts about bringing her in. “I knew she had been training well. She was well guided by an experienced back four. I really believe in her ability. She is a special person and a special player. To do that against her old club too, she was wonderful.”
Looking ahead, Perth Glory has a week now before facing unbeaten league leaders Sydney FC. Their plans for the next seven days initially centre around: ”Absorbing today and being really proud. We need to make sure we don’t lose this moment. There are still things that we can do better, but we take it one day at a time.
“I’m in the high point of my career. I love this club, I’m well supported here and have a great staff and group of players. I’m really happy.”
Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Doran, Hendrix, Eliadis, Nevin, Cooney-Cross, Murphy, Chidiac, Privitelli, Markovski, Zimmerman. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Robers, Withers, Zois, Barbieri (GK).
PERTH GLORY (4-2-1-3): Newbon, Rigby, Mihocic, K.Carroll, de la Harpe, Leth Jans, Lowry, Cain, Phonsongkham, Hintzen, Sakalis. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), De Vanna, Keane, Jancevski, Khamis.
Scorers: Leth Jans 69′, Khamis 74′
Referee: Rebecca Mackie.