Sydney clawed their way back into tonight's match after their skipper was sent off, secured second place on the ladder for another week and left Perth with the chance of winning little more than some dignity from the matches remaining this season.
Coaches are usually unrevealing in post-match press conferences. But sometimes, for instance when one side has performed a near miracle and the other has performed abominably, jubilation and devastation can elicit some frank and instructional comments.
Sydney coach Terry Butcher said, "There was some wonderful football played tonight for a team that was down to ten men. They kept the ball well, showed a lot of spirit, a lot of coolness, a lot of character, and defended really well.
"Clint Bolton, whenever he was called upon was tremendous as well."
He said he selected goal-scorer Alex Brosque as lone striker instead of usual options Sasho Petrovski and David Zdrilic because of the poor state of the pitch following a Robbie Williams concert.
"It was a difficult bouncy pitch. I felt if we could put balls over the top and turn the Perth back four round, with his pace in particular … Because if we were going to play in front with Sasho and David, which we do, then it's easy for them step onto the game and stop us.
"We needed penetration and a bit of length to the game and Alex provided that. He's a good alternative for us to have."
Perth coach Ron Smith said he was extremely disappointed with the result and even more disappointed with his team's performance. "It is hard to explain how a group of people can be out there and not really in the game for so long. It's out of character and I'm at a bit of loss. We had
so much to play for tonight, to even keep a chance of making the top four. I think we did better against the 11 players than we did against ten."
He said, "We tried to switch the ball across the park (but) we struggled in the middle of the park all night to even keep the ball and Sydney put us under pressure and we struggled to do the same to them at times.
"They had all the time in the world to do things. Individually tonight a number of their players obviously stepped up and their ability to keep the ball individually was extremely superior to what we could manage. And that was the big difference: we couldn't get the ball off them."
The Sydney pitch was such a mess that a roller was needed to flatten a goalmouth before the game.
In the warm-ups Stan Lazaridis looked bloated, Steve Corica looked sharp and referee Simon Przydacz looked very keen.
Perth lost the ball straight from the kick off, giving Sydney a throw in, but soon were effectively spoiling Sydney's party. David Tarka was hard in the back of Brosque to cancel Sydney's probing balls forward.
Both sides proceeded with sloppy play, giving the ball away, long balls easily intercepted.
Tarka fouled Brosque, whose speed looked likely to create some difficulties for the Perth backs. The free kick from 25 metres out was easily cleared.
Leo Bertos almost connected with a ball from the right and still won a corner which Tarka headed wide.
Simon Colosimo took out Ufuk Talay and Sydney were not looking good as Talay received more Perth attention.
Stuart Young worked a one-two with Mark Lee. Mark Milligan caught Young's leg and fell awkwardly.
Brosque put Ante Kovacevic under pressure in the Perth penalty area and David Carney almost put Terry McFlynn through on goal.
Carney was getting very involved, but with mixed results.
Tarka fouled Brosque again, as Brosque appeared increasingly a threat. Tarka headed the free kick behind for a Sydney corner. Iain Fyfe came close to making contact for Sydney but just clashed heads with a Perth defender.
A looping switch — the second from Young — almost found Bertos on the right. At first it seemed Young played it too far forward; he made Bertos work hard, but Bertos came close to beating Ceccoli to the ball.
Twenty minutes into the game and Sydney were enjoying five minutes of sustained pressure against the Perth defence … though Lazaridis, only good for 15 metres, was getting in some good spoils.
Robbie Middleby made a chase to the left corner but pulled the ball back too far to be of use to Brosque — perhaps didn't expect Brosque to have kept up with him.
Sydney kept coming and Middleby was decked by Jamie Coyne.
In the 26th minute Sydney had a let off. Young put a neat tap-through for Colosimo who played on to Bertos. Bertos' shot, from an angle on the left, went just wide of the right post.
Two minutes later Sydney had its send off. Bertos was on the end of another through ball. Sydney fans were crying "Oh no", seeing Bertos free on goal. Rudan put an end to that threat but created much more trouble for Sydney.
Colosimo's free kick was spilled and regathered by Clint Bolton. Then Colosimo earned his yellow card for a foul on Corica.
Fyfe hit a fine ball down the right for Brosque who was dealt with by Tarka.
Corica got the ball in space 20 metres from goal and tried his luck; it wasn't a terrible effort, but to the left of target.
A switch from Bertos on the right beautifully picked out Young making a run into the left of the Sydney penalty area. Young controlled perfectly and played the ball back for Colosimo who struck poorly left of goal. Perth should have been one up.
Perth came again and won a corner.
Bertos made a long run down the right. Ceccoli back-pedalled too far and allowed Bertos to take a shot, which was low and hard and which Bolton spilled a regathered with two Perth players snapping at his finger tips.
Middleby, this time on the right, crossed in to Corica at the Perth goal box but Kovacevic got in the way. Young played through to Jamie Harnwell who mishit his shot.
Mark Lee made a good tackle on Carney but, soon after, Carney beat Lee, requiring Tarka to clean up.
Corica hit a sweet ball into the Perth penalty area for Carney who didn't take his first chance and allowed Kovacevic to make it safe.
Milligan had to do a lot of extra work in the absence of Rudan, and he was doing it well.
The first half ended with Brosque still gamely battling against Lee and Tarka.
Butcher made his strategic change at half time: Ruben Zadkovich on for Carney. Whether it was the slight change in Sydney's shape, the later departure of Bertos with a calf strain and Tarka with a hamstring problem, or effects of Perth playing their second game in four days, the home side were about to enjoy a much better 45 minutes.
In the 48th minute Colosimo was penalised for hand ball and Corica's free kick went left of target.
A one-two between Young and Lazaridis almost paid off and, in the 51st minute, Bertos copped his yellow for bringing down Middleby on a break.
Middleby hit a great swinging ball for Brosque but Kovacevic was quick to cover.
Sydney were still in the game, despite being a man down, but not yet asserting any authority.
In the 58th minute Zadkovich made a good steal 30 metres from goal, went for a run and wasted his shot high.
Naum Sekulovski came on for Lazaridis, who had a knee problem, but made little impact.
Young played right to Bertos, who played further right to Colosimo whose cross was cleared by Fyfe.
Perth then had another good chance when a poor clearance fell to Young on the edge of the Sydney penalty area. Young struck well but Bolton but equal to the task, saving low to his right.
The turning point was Bertos' replacement by Luka Glavas in the 63rd minute. Glavas provided a much less significant threat to Sydney's defence. Alvin Ceccoli lapped him up.
In the 64th minute Middleby crossed from the left, perfect for Corica at the far post. Corica headed back towards the left post but Tom Tomich made a wonderful reflex save.
A minute later, Glavas earned his yellow card for taking out his frustrations on Ceccoli, who was being made to look quite the hero, cancelling out all Perth thrusts down their right side.
The home crowd started to sense that Sydney weren't just holding on; they might be able to produce something. Sydney were keeping possession in the Perth half, looking for a break around the Perth penalty area. Every player but McFlynn seemed capable of holding the ball against Perth's increasingly impotent resistance.
But Perth still had their moments. A Glavas shot-cum-cross was deflected over goal by Milligan. In the 70th minute Bolton pulled off a finger-tip save from a Harnwell header.
There was much more passing to feet by Sydney (whoever said later that Sydney played rubbish football mustn't have watched the whole game). Zadkovich twice turned his marker and got off a shot … not good enough to bother Tomich.
Sydney built up again around the Perth penalty area — which side had the extra player? — and McFlynn shot left of goal. For Perth, substitute Adrian Webster had a whack, high and wide from distance.
In the 79th minute Corica on the right was brilliant, turning suddenly and beating three Perth players and crossing to the far post where Brosque coolly headed the ball back across Tomich and inside the right upright, leaving Coyne prostrate.
I was just noting that Brosque was looking tired and probably needed a rest. Far from it. With a goal under his belt, Brosque fired up for a few more minutes. He was almost through on a long ball but was held back by Kovacevic who received a yellow card for his desperation.
Talay had a shot and Tomich spilled. Corica was blocked and a further follow-up shot went left across goal.
Adrian Webster pulled Brosque down and copped his yellow while accusing the Sydney forward of being a big baby.
Brosque finally received a well-deserved rest. Petrovski came on. But the game was over. Perth had nothing to offer.
At the press conference, Butcher said, "It was a fantastic superhuman team effort."
He said, "We just felt if we could get the ball out to Robbie Middleby a cross would come in. We didn't have that many people we could put into the box but we felt that the shape of the team was very good.
"I thought we just wanted one more chance. I thought the opportunity would fall to Alex on a through ball, more of a one-on-one than the opportunity when it came from a fantastic Stevie Corica cross."
Butcher said, "When Stevie produced a bit of magic and Brosque scored, that's the way your luck goes and sometimes it is about luck; sometimes it is about getting a break at the right time.
Of the only goal in three games coming from the third striker in three games, he said, "He was different to what we've been used to. David and Sasho have been tremendous for us this season. It is not the team that we pick; it is the character strength and spirit of a very small squad which has got us through the difficult times, when we had 13 players. It got us through tonight and hopefully it will get us through the next four matches as well."
He said he was delighted with Brosque. He said he showed a lot of fight, spirit and pace. "I always felt that if we could get one opportunity, one good through ball, he would be on the end of that. He certainly worried their defence.
"He's scored the winner and he has played in his rightful position. It's like having a new signing … It gives me another dimension."
Butcher said he took Carney off so he could get a right wing back on. Taking Carney off for Zadkovich provided a better shape with only ten men.
Corica said it took Sydney a little while to get going in the first half. "In the second half we got the momentum going again; passed the ball well. I think with ten men we still kept the ball better than them.
That's what won us the game."
Corica said Brosque's work rate was brilliant and that he deserved the goal.
Smith acknowledged the possibility that having played their last game so recently could have had an effect on Perth's performance. "But individually there were only a couple of people who could hold their head up and say, ‘I've gone out there and performed something like I do every week and put the effort in.'"
He said, "We've got another game on the 28th of December and we've got to play an awful lot better than that. The only saving grace tonight was that Clint Bolton had to pull off two or three really good saves, so we did manage at least to get some good strikes on goal. But the quality of our play from back to front was particularly poor."
Colosimo said, "We sort of had our tails up in the first half. We weren't too bad in the first half, but in the second half they made it look like we had ten men and they had 11."