Western United take out Perth and prove they are the real deal

Perth Glory 2-3 Western United

by Ben Gilby (1/1/23)

Above: Celebrations for Western United who came from 2-1 down to defeat Perth Glory today. Photo: Keep Up.

Western United came from behind twice to maintain their perfect start to their first-ever A-League Women season in a spiky New Year’s Day encounter at Macedonia Park.

This was a game full of drama with goals galore and a real physical edge. Mark Torcaso’s visitors had considerably more shots (23 to nine), but they could never shake off a Perth Glory side that showed occasional flashes of brilliance in attack combined with a hugely impressive performance by Sarah Langman in goal.

The home side welcomed back key striker Rylee Baisden who missed Tuesday’s trip to Melbourne City with a minor injury. Sadie Lawrence also stepped up from the bench to replace the unwell Sarah Cain. Susan Phonsongkham was a sub.

Two weeks on from their previous match, Western United’s Stacey Papadopoulos was back after suffering from concussion against Adelaide United. Kahli Johnson came into the starting line-up along with Julia Sardo.

Whilst it was the unbeaten visitors who gained much of the possession in the earliest of exchanges, the Glory defence, which worked so well at AAMI Park last time out stayed strong.

Sofia Sakalis, who was so impressive with her skillful touches and vision in Perth’s last game was at it again with eight minutes gone with real impact. Out on the left flank, Sakalis gathered the ball, turned her marker, and within one movement, threaded through an inch-perfect pass into the stride of Cyera Hintzen in the box who squared the ball to her right for fellow American Baisden to direct into the net.

Above: Rylee Baisden shows her joy after putting Perth Glory ahead today. Photo: Keep Up.

It was only the fourth goal Western United have conceded in five games this season, and the Victoria side were thrown defensively. Within six minutes Perth could have doubled their lead when Baisden’s ball was deflected into the path of Hintzen, who was just about to pull the trigger when Sardo dived in with a perfectly timed tackle.

The visitors pushed up to set an attack within moments, earning their first corner. Lifted in high from the left, Sydney Cummings beat Kim Carroll in the air to direct a header that Sarah Langman did well to push against the bar, only for Hannah Keane to respond quickest to direct the ball over the line to level the scores.

The game was now alive and becoming increasingly end-to-end. United’s World Cup winner Jess McDonald drove through the centre of midfield and laid a pass off to Keane outside her on the right. A low ball across to the left-hand side of the box found Johnson who directed a shot that Langman got down well to save at the post.

Just before the half-hour mark, the visitors were having more of the possession from an attacking perspective. McDonald earned a free-kick when her cross came off Rigby’s arm just outside the box on the right. The resulting ball came in and led to a corner. With Western United’s prowess from set-pieces growing, the corner from the left came in high once more. Liz Anton blocked one shot from the visitors before Langman’s dive denied Johnson again.

McDonald was becoming increasingly influential. A long ball from Keane curled a clever into her path running into the box. The intelligent length on the ball meant that Langman had to decide quickly whether to stand her ground or advance towards the American attacker. In the end, the Perth goalkeeper opted for the latter and the danger went. The visitors were now well on top and the Glory needed to see out the remaining 10 minutes without conceding again.

Five minutes before the break, controversy centred around Western United goalkeeper Hillary Beale in two incidents within 60 seconds. Baisden split the United defence beautifully to play in Sakalis. A heavy touch handed the advantage to Beale and Sakalis went down in the box. Despite loud claims from the home bench, penalty claims were waved away correctly as there was little in the way of contact.

Above: Perth Glory’s Cyera Hintzen, who linked up well with Rylee Baisden throughout the game, gets away from Sydney Cummings. Photo: Keep Up.

Within a minute, Baisden’s clever link-up play was in evidence once more as her long ball released Hintzen who was met outside the area by Beale in a clash of legs. Referee Caitlin Williams showed a yellow to Beale which provoked more frustration from the home side who believed it was a sending-off offence. The resulting free kick from Hana Lowry curled well over the bar.

There was still time for more drama before the half-time whistle went. Emma Rober’s shot came back off Anton allowing Johnson to fire an effort that Langman tipped over – the latest personal duel between them. It led to a corner, as the visitors continued to cause chaos in the Perth box with set-pieces. This time Anton’s header came back off her own bar. Perth survived for 1-1 at the break.

The second half opened with end-to-end opportunities. Whilst Western United couldn’t quite penetrate, the home side did. Rigby’s slide tackle in midfield drove the ball forward but with a deflection, there was a big slice of backspin on the bounce which Ella Mastrantonio took advantage of to beat Alana Cerne and find Lowry in the box. The locally-born midfielder took control, beat Melissa Taranto, and sidefooted a finish into the right-hand corner of the net.

The visitors responded immediately with McDonald playing a low ball in from the right which Keane slid in for at the near post, but her effort went wide.

On the hour mark, Mark Torcaso introduced Matildas star Chloe Logarzo and she stamped her class on the encounter within 10 minutes. McDonald’s ball across from right caused problems at the back for Perth as Keane’s run blocked off Anton allowing Logarzo to fire home the equaliser.

Above: Within 10 minutes of coming onto the pitch Chloe Logarzo was on target for Western United. Photo: Keep Up.

Keane was involved again shortly afterwards as she broke through the centre and cut in which allowed her to see off the Glory defensive pair of Carroll and Anton before curling a shot towards the top left-hand corner that Langman saved well.

Glory continued to create, and a high ball in from the right saw Sakalis and Gabriella Coleman leap for the same ball and it eventually fell for Demi Koulizakis who fired in shot that Beall blocked.

The game was decided with four minutes left. Alana Cerne earned a free kick outside the box to the right of centre. Melissa Taranto played it in, Langman repelled, but the ball dropped to Keane who shot, Koulizakis tried to clear off the line but only succeeded in helping the ball into the net and United were in front for the first time all afternoon.

All the stats show that Western United deserved the victory. They had the competition’s season’s best XG (expected goals) of over 4.1, but despite this they could never quite shake off the Western Australians who contributed to a hugely watchable encounter.

Perth Glory remain a curates egg of a team this season. They have shown flashes of their potential in every game this season, but have never managed to produce a 90-minute performance to turn that potential into the points that many predicted they would earn this season.

Western United are the real deal. No-one thought they would struggle in their inaugural campaign, but equally not many put their hand up to suggest Mark Torcaso’s side as being in contention for silverware. They certainly are now.

Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-3-3): Langman, Rigby, Anton, Carroll, Wallhead, Lawrence, Lowry, Mastrantonio, Baisden, Hintzen, Sakalis. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), Coleman, Jancevski, Koulizakis, Phonsongkham.

Scorers: Baisden 7′, Lowry 53′.

WESTERN UNITED (3-3-3-1): Beall, Sardo, Cummings, Cerne, A. Taranto, M. Taranto, Papadopoulos, Johnson, Robers, McDonald, Keane. Substitutes: Dakic, Dall’Oste, Logarzo, Medwin, Sinclair.

Scorers: Keane 18′, Logarzo 68′, Koulizakis (OG) 86′.

Referee: Caitlin Williams.

Attendance: 700.

Artwork by: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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