Perth Glory have overcome an early injury to skipper Andy Keogh to return to the winners list, defeating 10-man Melbourne City 3-1 at AAMI Park on a stormy Friday night.
Referee Daniel Elder stole the show in the opening half, booking Kenny Lowe in a watershed moment and sending a hugely talkative decision to the VAR, which awarded a penalty and a red card.
Osama Malik was the man dismissed in the incident, catching youngster Jacob Italiano on the thigh with studs raised.
By that time both sides had already opened their accounts for the night, Perth first through Mitch Nichols, deflected of Michael Jakobsen, then City responded via a Ross McCormack stunner.
But Glory went back ahead when Xavi Torres converted the overturned penalty, and substitute Mitch Mallia capitalised on Nick Fitzgerald’s 83rd-minute error to seal the deal.
Glory move up to fourth on the table, just three points adrift of City, who have now gone winless in four games.
Daniel Elder and VAR at the thick of it again
For the second time already this season, referee Elder has been in the thick of controversy. He was the official at the centre of the Besart Berisha incident in Round 3, that time as a fourth official.
Elder took a central role as City and Glory battled; a 39th-minute incident involving Malik and Italiano was referred upstairs after a non-decision, and after some two minutes of deliberation, Elder pointed to the spot and handed Malik a straight red card.
Replays showed Malik caught Italiano high on the thigh; whether Elder made the right call is down to interpretation and every Dick, Tom and Harry will have their own opinion on the decision.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) November 24, 2017
On the stroke of half time, Shane Lowry brought Bart Schenkeveld down in Perth’s area, and at first glance the non-call of a penalty seemed a horrible miss by Elder, as clearcut as they come.
However, replays showed – again after the VAR intervened – that Schenkeveld had started in an offside position so no spot kick could be awarded.
Those moments aside, Elder had a big job to do in a hugely physical contest and was often culpable of losing control of proceedings when tempers flared and confusion reigned, and the home fans made little secret of their thoughts.
A world first under stormy skies
Thirty-two minutes into the game, Elder was at the centre of the drama again, bringing about a world first in world football at a professional level.
He showed an irate Lowe a yellow card for dissent, the first manager to receive a booking in the A-League under FFA’s new cards for managers initiative.
It was the first such action in around a month of football since the system’s introduction.
Tim Cahill gets his minutes
The Socceroos marksman sparked a week and a half of chatter about his relationship with Warren Joyce by saying he was hunting more minutes at club level; it was said to be at “breaking point” according to the Daily Telegraph.
The coach himself went a way to pouring water on the flames on Thursday, insisting he had no problem with the veteran.
Cahill was handed his first minutes back after Australia duty, playing 20 minutes after replacing McCormack.
Those minutes can only help bury the hatchet and feed discourse that the feud is little more than a molehill.
It is a start, but even then it seems a stretch that Cahill will force a move from City, certainly elsewhere in the A-League.
Another injury for Perth
The seemingly endless list of injuries to Perth’s key men claimed another casualty as captain Keogh went down injured in the 30th minute.
The Irishman picked up a knock in the 24th minute but carried on, though eventually he succumbed to the groin problem six minutes later.
That catalogue of injuries now includes Keogh, Diego Castro, Adam Taggart, Marc Warren, Andreu, Joel Chianese, Daniel Stynes and Scott Neville.
What might have seemed like a coincidence now has to go down as a serious concern for Lowe with his attack decimated and numbers seemingly dropping like flies by the game.