Perth Glory returned to the winner’s circle on Sunday night with a commanding and comfortable 3-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners in a clash of first versus last at Central Coast Stadium.
It did not take long for the league leaders to hit the front as Andy Keogh played in Joel Chianese who bided is time in the box before finishing tidily into bottom left corner as Central Coast allowed him to cut inside from the right.
From there, Glory were comfortable. Dino Djulbic made it two with a towering header from a Neil Kilkenny corner just before the half hour mark, leaping above three Mariners defenders to head the ball home.
The game-clinching third came before hour mark when Diego Castro was felled in the box allowing Kilkenny to convert from the spot.
The Mariners came close to an equaliser on multiple occasions, including a deflected free kick that struck the crossbar, but they could not do enough to get back in the game and put up any resistance to the Glory.
6⃣ points clear – we like the look of that!
— Perth Glory FC (@PerthGloryFC) April 7, 2019
It was 21 December since Glory last lost before they tasted defeat at home against Melbourne Victory last weekend, just their second loss of the season. With slipping to second place still a mathematical possibility, Tony Popovic set his side out to respond to their slipup, and respond they did.
No game in football is a foregone conclusion, but Central Coast is a game that Perth would be expecting to win 10 times out of 10.
An early goal is always crucial to avoid the opposition sitting back and gaining confidence and to calm the minds and allow the team to dictate the game, and the Glory got one from Chianese.
As soon as that goal went in, Popovic’s men were able to essentially breeze through the game at a canter, completely controlling the pace and the direction of the game. Kilkenny held down the midfield alongside Juande and Castro, Keogh and Christopher Ikonomidis were swift and cohesive in their link-up play as always.
A comfortable win just to steady the ship was exactly what Popovic needed, as the Glory move potentially just one win away from clinching the minor premiership.
A future under Staj
After the embarrassment of the 8-2 defeat to Wellington Phoenix last month resulted in Mike Mulvey losing his job, the appointment of former Matildas boss Alen Stajcic was one that surprised many.
With so much controversy surrounding his departure from the Matildas so soon before the Women’s World Cup in June, the immediacy at which he was employed again shocked many in the football world, and perhaps the fact that it was the Central Coast job that he took added more intrigue.
In just his first game Stajcic doubled the Mariners’ wins tally for the seniors, and since then he has kept defeats to Adelaide United and Perth respectable, clearly having an impact in such a short time.
The 45-year-old has had vast experience and success with the women’s national team and is highly regarded as one of the top Australian managers.
Mulvey was seen as the man to turn the club’s fortunes around but after a pre-season full of Usain Bolt shaped distractions, he had nowhere near the impact it was hoped that he would.
The club and the fans will now turn their attentions toward yet another off-season of ‘rebuilding,’ but this time around with Stajcic at the helm, this could well be one of the last Mariners off-seasons where that football cliché is used.
Opposite ends of the development spectrum
While the Mariners are clinging on to any dwindling hope of them ever returning to the finals of the A-League, Perth have completely turned around their own fortunes in stark contrast to the cellar dwellers.
After missing the finals and sacking long standing manager Kenny Lowe, Perth made a fantastic appointment in hiring Popovic and recruited fantastically in the off season, bringing in international calibre players and building a team that is moving in the same direction under the new coach.
In one single pre-season, Perth achieved what that Mariners have been trying for years in completely turning around their team and shooting themselves up the table.
Officials in Gosford would do well to utilise the example of the Glory, and with the best manager they have had in a while currently in place, they are some way on the job to following in Perth’s footsteps.