Perth Glory interim coach Alistair Edwards is daring to dream of a shock finals appearance after steering his side to a 2-1 win over Sydney FC at nib Stadium last night.
First-half goals from Chris Harold and Shane Smeltz either side of a 30m wonder strike from Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero were enough to give Glory a victory that pushed them to within three points of the top six.
With four games left in the regular season, qualification for the finals is not beyond reach.
“I always said that it was going to come down to the last game,” Edwards said.
“This game was crucial in terms of getting the three points but we’re in with a shout.
“We’ve got some tough games coming through but if we continue to improve like we are doing, then we’ll be in there with a shout.
“That’s all were going to try and do for the next four games.”
An entertaining opening led to Harold firing Glory in front in the 19th minute after some good build-up play from Liam Miller.
The creative midfielder weaved his way into the penalty box and drew two defenders before laying a pass in the path of Harold, who rifled home from close range.
Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic got a finger to the ball but couldn’t keep out the powerful shot.
The Sky Blues hit back in the 28th minute when Del Piero produced a moment of brilliance, notching his 12th goal of the season.
The former Juventus star was afforded too much space and time on the ball and launched a swerving left-foot shot into the top corner from 30m.
But Glory regained the lead just six minutes later.
A short corner was played to Scott Jamieson, who crossed the ball into a crowded penalty area where Shane Smeltz was on hand to place a neat side-footed volley into the back of the net.
It was a move direct from the training ground.
“We’re gradually introducing those types of elements into our game,” Edwards said.
“We want to mix things up because we need to try and see if we can provoke teams, change their pattern of play and change the things that they’re expecting form us.
“We’ll be doing similar kinds of things as we go through, but it’s a work in progress.”
Sydney had chances to equalise again in the second half but the task was made more difficult when defender Fabio Alvez was sent off for a second bookable offence when he fouled Smeltz.
The visitors gave the home crowd a few nervous moments but couldn’t repeat their performance from round 15, when Sebastian Ryall salvaged a 2-2 draw against Glory on the same ground with a late header.
Sydney coach Frank Farina had no issues with referee Strebre Delovski’s decision to send off Fabio, but felt his side should have been awarded a penalty for what he thought was a foul on Ali Abbas in the first half.
Edwards was pleased with the performance of debutant Daniel De Silva and Argentine midfielder Matias Cordoba, who was given his first start for Glory in place of the injured Nick Ward.
The fans were singing De Silva’s name even before he was introduced in the 62nd minute and weren’t let down, with the 15-year-old whiz kid showing some promising signs in a lively display.
“He’s a good kid. I think he enjoyed and he’s got a massive smile on his face now,” Edwards said.
“His first touch was a crunching tackle so welcome to the Hyundai A-League, but he’ll be ok.”
Glory defender Steve Pantelidis will be assessed in the coming days after being forced off with an Achilles injury in the first half.Young local product Jack Clisby performed well after replacing Pantelidis and goalkeeper Danny Vukovic made several fine saves to play a major role in Glory’s win.
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