A workmanlike 3-1 win for defending National Soccer League champions Perth Glory at a waterlogged Ericsson Stadium on October 12 has lifted the Western Australian side to within a point of the lead in the early weeks of the season, while leaving the side they defeated, the Football Kingz, bottom of the table without a point to their name after four rounds of action.
The first twenty minutes of the match, which was watched by some 1245 hardy souls, saw both teams more concerned with coming to terms with the treacherous conditions, made so by a series of torrential rainstorms which have struck Auckland throughout the past week.
In that time, Perthıs Damian Mori hit the crossbar with a sixth minute header, but did so from an offside position, testimony to the Kingz hard-working defensive effort, which saw them contain the much-vaunted visitors throughout the entire first half.
The closest Perth came to scoring during the opening forty-five minutes was half-way through the half, when the Kingz defence produced the effective scrambling qualities it is becoming noted for to thwart Mori and Bradley Hassell, after the outstanding combination of Wayne Srhoj and Tom Pondeljak had prised open the home teamıs left flank.
While the Kingz rarely threatened the goal defended by Jason Petkovic in the first spell, one attacking thrust, five minutes before the interval, could have seen the home side go into the dressing rooms a goal to the good, had luck favoured them.
A neat back-heel by Mark Burton - recalled to the side after a lengthy absence through injury - saw Harry Ngata play the ball wide to Mauro Donoso, who directed the sphere into Chris Jacksonıs path.
Despite finding himself in the area of the park most affected by the recent deluges, the Kingz captain sloshed his way into the penalty area and sent a deep cross beyond the far post to Brad Scott. The midfielder steered the ball inside for Ngata, off whose leg the ball ricocheted. Petkovic was beaten all ends up, but was much relieved to see the sphere swerve past his right-hand post.
The Kingz would have been well pleased with their first half efforts, particularly defensively, against the defending champions, but within three minutes of the resumption, they had undone all their hard work with yet another lapse in concentration.
Srhoj was not slow to take advantage of it, switching play to the ever-lively Matt Horsley. He swept inside and drew the defence before rewarding the clever off-the-ball running of Bobby Despotovski, which left the striker with just Ross Nicholson to beat.
The Kingz keeper, a late inclusion in the starting line-up after initial selection Michael Utting succumbed to a recurrence of his heel injury in the pre-match warm-up, could do little to prevent Despotovski from swerving around him and steering the ball home.
nly a timely tackle from the improving Jason Rowley thwarted Mori three minutes later, after an error by Espen Schjerven had been pounced on by Jade North, but two minutes shy of the hour mark, the visitors had doubled their advantage.
A rare error by Ngata - a wayward crossfield pass intended for the sluggish Donoso - was intercepted by Horsley, and forward stormed Despotovski. Pondeljak loomed up on his right and duly received an inviting pass which the hard-working midfielder steered into the far corner of the net from fifteen yards.
With nothing to lose, Kingz coach Ken Dugdale turned to his bench and introduced two substitutes, one of whom, Jeff Campbell, made a nigh-on immediate impact. Just three minutes after entering the fray, the winger weaved some space for himself on the left flank before delivering a well-weighted cross to the far post. Ngata was on the end of it, and made amends for his error moments earlier by scoring the goal of the game, a splendidly angled header wide of Petkovic and in by the far post - 2-1, game on.
At least, it was for all of three minutes. For that is all the time it took for Mori to restore Perthıs two-goal advantage. As was so often the case in much of what the visitors did that was good in this match, Srhoj was involved, instigating this raid with a cross-field ball which Horsley gathered near the corner flag.
Jamie Coyne was up in support of the midfielder, and slipped the ball inside him to Pondeljak, who was given room to run into by Kingz midfielder Paul Seaman. The scorer of the second goal took full advantage, advancing to the edge of the penalty area before slipping the ball into Moriıs path, the striker having drifted off his marker, John Tambouras.
Given his goalscoring record, no team can afford to give Mori the sort of space he had, and goal number three was duly despatched, the contest all but over as a result.
It was nearly 4-1 two minutes later, Donoso heading off the line from Mark Byrnes after the defender had headed a Srhoj corner goalwards. Byrne was later to see his thirty-yard blast well smothered by Nicholson, while Perth substitute Adrian Caceres engineered two openings in the dying minutes, the second of which was saved by Nicholson, seconds after his first effort had crept narrowly past the Kingz custodianıs left-hand post.
However, 3-1 was more than adequate return for a Perth side which was little troubled in containing the Kingz once the champions got their noses in front. The home side, however, will know that, having faced three of the likely title contenders in their first four games, things must surely improve for them in the coming weeks.