Power v Glory

Playoff report by Eamon Duffy
Parramatta Power v Perth Glory

At a rain soaked Parramatta Stadium in front of just 9630 (600 of whom had traveled from Perth), Perth Glory produced probably the gutsiest performance in their 8 year history to wrestle the NSL championship from the red hot favorites.

The fact that it took a golden goal in a match that was expected to provide a goalfest is testimony to the efforts of both sides and the atrocious conditions.

Chances were few and far between but the excitement never died in a great battle of tactics and wet weather football.

Despite not having played in wet weather all season it was Glory who adapted to the conditions better, and if the leagues all time leading goal scored had his shooting boots on the game would quite possible have been finished in normal time or at latest 5 minutes into extra time. But more about that later.

The game kicked off just as the rain started to pour down, however the weather failed to dampen the very loud group of Glory supporters who totally outchanted the local supporters.

It was 13 minutes before the first half chance fell to Glory as Harnwell delivered a great long ball over the Power defence. The ball was superbly controlled first time on his chest by Despotovski who in turn fired in a shot towards the near post. Mori flicked the ball on and Bolton could only block the ball down but just as Caceres was about to pounce Ceccoli got in first to clear the ball.

Just 9 minutes later Elrich crossed a ball from the right towards the edge of the Glory area, Petkovic came out but under a challenge from Milicic he dropped the ball but still managed to react first and scoop the ball away from the Power striker, who finished in a heap on the ground as Murphy completed the clearance.

In the 29th minute Despotovski fired in a free kick from the right that was not properly cleared by the Power defence and in the ensuing scramble Caceres hit a goal bound shot only for the water to hold the ball up just short of the line. Eventually Harnwell was penalized in the scramble that followed and Power were able to clear the danger.

Once more it was good play by Glory in the 38th minute as quick interchange between Despotovski and Pondeljak had the former crossing to the near post, it was dropped by Bolton but he just managed to scramble the ball clear before Mori could strike.

On half time Milicic gained possession 25 metres out and hit a first time shot that although looked good was easily dealt with by Petkovic.

The 2nd half started with Power playing with more conviction and Colosimo spraying the ball to the wings, mainly the right one to Elrich, who with just 1 exception wasted all the chances and supplied crosses that only led to goal kicks.

First though it was Dodd who fired a shot towards the Glory goal and a lounging Milicic just failed to connect even with his fist from 6 metres although he was pulled up for off side.

The exception to Elrich's bad crosses was the one he produced after 51 minutes when he was on the receiving end of a majestic 40 meter diagonal pass from Colosimo, he crossed the ball into the area for Milicic to meet with his head but the striker sadly was just wide of the post, when he really should have done better.

But that miss paled into insignificance just 4 minutes later as Pondeljak won the ball in midfield before speeding towards goal. His cut back cross was well shielded by Caceres into the path of Mori whose first touch took him clear of the defender and his 2nd touch unfortunately blazed the ball high and wide with the whole goal gaping.

Within a minute Power nearly made him pay dearly as Milicic found Petrovski on the left of the Glory area, he though was pushed wide by north and when he got free of his tackle the ever reliable Murphy was on hand to snuff out the danger.

In the 76th minute a quick break by Glory saw Byrnes feed Caceres on the left and he slipped the ball through for Mori, but Bolton was quick off his line to beat the striker to the ball.

It was Bolton and Mori again involved in the last real action of the 90 minutes when after 77 minutes a great ball by Pondeljak was chased down by Mori but he was heavily tackled by Bolton outside the box and to everybody amazement no free kick was awarded.

So we came to extra time with both sets of players showing a fair amount of wear and tear.

Just 5 minutes in the game should have finished as a great break by Glory saw Pondeljak deliver a pass to Mrdja on the left, he in turn hit a great first time diagonal pass towards Mori, Zorbas inexplicably slipped over to allow the ball run through to the great striker, but for the 2nd time and with the goal and goalkeeper at his mercy he blasted wide.

Luckily for him though he had a big part to play in the action just 4 minutes later, as Bingley found Hassell for his first legitimate touch since coming on for Coyne. The midfielder carried the ball forward before laying off the ball to Mrdja. He controlled the ball and sent a great pass to Mori who controlled the ball on the edge of the box before laying it back to Mrdja who hit it sweetly from the edge of the box and into the bottom right hand corner of the net for what was truly a golden goal.

And so against all the odds this Glory side that was decimated by change in the off season and had to play most of the first round games away from home had overcome all the obstacles to go down in history as the last winners of the NSL Championship and only the 4th side in its history to win both the Premiership and Championship.

Perhaps when looking at this season we can bring to mind the old saying that a Champion team can always beat a team of Champions, although Glory themselves have indeed many champions.