Reddy to rumble! Heroic keeper shoots Perth into A-League Grand Final


Perth Glory squeaked past an indomitable Adelaide United to book their first home A-League Grand Final next weekend.

Glory could be crowned A-League Champions for the first time against the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory.

The match was poised 2-2 after the regulation 90 minutes, 3-3 at the end of extra time, with Glory ultimately prevailing 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out, thanks to the heroics of their pumped keeper Liam Reddy.

In a pulsating encounter at HBF Stadium, that will go down as one of the most exciting in A-League history, both teams served up a thriller for the record 17,868 crowd.

The health insurance company who have naming rights to the stadium could have done a roaring trade in throat lozenges tonight as the Perth faithful screamed themselves hoarse, urging their favourites to an epic triumph.

Tagged as favourites, the weight of expectation hung heavily on the home team as they struggled to find their rhythm in the first 20 minutes.

Glory coach Tony Popovic put out his strongest XI but Adelaide were content to frustrate by packing the midfield and sitting deep in possession. Their strategy was to let the clock increase the pressure on Glory by keeping the match scoreless as long as possible.

Just as their plan seemed to be bearing fruit, up popped El Maestro, Diego Castro. The talismanic Spanish playmaker came to Glory’s rescue, as he has so often this season.

Wing back Ivan Franjic started a move on the right on 29’, crossing the ball in to the box. Promising Socceroo forward, Chris Ikonomidis slipped a diagonal ball through to Castro who beat Paul Izzo at his near post, the Adelaide stopper in two minds about the cross.

Glory continued to look nervy as the Reds came more into the game, with the Perth side looking relieved to retain the lead at the interval.

Adelaide started the second half brightly and Glory knew they still had a game on their hands. The celebrations started in earnest when Castro again scored in the 74th minute. Weaving his magic, he took possession in the box, committing defenders, before calmly stroking it home.

The rapturous Glory support saluted Castro and began to scent a Grand Final in the one-year-old, state-of-the-art Optus stadium, in tantalising reach, just the other side of the Swan River.

They reckoned without the remarkable resilience of the Reds as Adelaide refused to die. Urged on by extravagant gesticulations from the touchlines by their spectacularly demonstrative German coach, Marco Kurz, they mounted an incredible comeback.

Adelaide’s Senegalese striker Baba Diawara, who had looked menacing since coming on after 58’, delivered the final blow in a clamorous goalmouth stramash to reduce the deficit to one goal in the 81st minute.

Swashbuckling end to end football transpired as the Reds sought the equaliser, playing two at the back, with keeper Paul Izzo playing sweeper, as Glory sought the killer blow on the break.

One last desperate attack won Adelaide a corner in the fourth and final minute of added time. After desperate clearances by the Perth defence to no avail, the ball fell to Adelaide left back Ryan Kitto, who despatched a howitzer into the net giving Reddy no chance.

Extra time beckoned.

“We can make the dream reality” Tony Popovic.
Photo: Paul McNeela

Popovic threw on the fresh legs of Jake Brimmer, Joel Chianese and Scott Neville as he calculated Adelaide’s resistance would wilt during their second 120-minute game in five days, after eclipsing Melbourne City in the elimination final.

Kurz, remarkably sacked, to take effect at the end of the season, by the Adelaide board in March, was not quite finished giving his employers the finger, and his fiercely loyal players were determined to make a fist of it.

Glory again looked like they’d put the tie to bed as Neville rose in the 104th minute to net his well-placed header beyond Izzo.

At the extra time break it was 3-2 to Glory.

But back again came the undaunted Adelaide.

Sending their small pocket of fans into paroxysms of glee, Michael Marrone, who had been a rock in the centre of defence all night, headed Adelaide level in the 115th minute. 3-3.

Slugging it out like gladiators, both teams had the chance to put the tie to bed as extra time ticked away.
As the whistle indicated the end of extra time, Adelaide entered the penalty shoot out with the psychological upper hand.

“Why was shoot-out at Shed end?” Marco Kurz.
Photo: Paul McNeela

But while Kurz vehemently protested at the lack of a coin toss, the referee (or Foxtel?) determined the shoot-out would be at the Shed end of the ground, the standing area, where the vociferous Glory active support dwell.

As Adelaide’s captain and star left-winger Craig Goodwin lined up for the first penalty, he faced a hostile reception, but tucked it away with panache.

At 2-1 down Castro stepped up for his penalty, which, to the horror of the home support, was saved by Izzo.

It seemed Glory’s A-League under-achievement was destined to continue.

But while Juande and veteran Brendon Santalab kept Glory alive, at 2-3, up stepped the oldest man on the pitch, goalkeeper Reddy (37), to keep his head, when all around others were losing theirs. Apologies to Kipling, but Reddyard wrote his very own Jungle Book tonight.

First. Facing Adelaide’s own El Maestro, Isaias Sanchez, he pulled off his first save.

Incredibly, Reddy took the next penalty, outfoxing Izzo, his opposite number, by smashing the ball down the middle into the top of the net.

Heroic Reddy to right of Popa and Keogh.
Photo: Paul McNeela

The Shed was delirious. Reddy had not only kept them in the hunt he’d levelled it 3-3. But he had done much, much more. His heroic intervention had crucially wrestled the psychological advantage back in Glory’s favour.

Ben Halloran then scored to make it 4-3 Adelaide, putting 20-year-old Jake Brimmer under unimaginable pressure.
Brimmer scored to keep Glory alive.

Stramash hero Diawara was up next, but 12 yards was too much for him this late, with Reddy guessing the direction of his half-hearted attempt.

Diawara’s failure to convert was the first of five consecutive saves, as Izzo emulated Reddy’s herculean exploits. All 16 penalties in this shootout were on target, no misses, only saves.

Reddy miraculously saved three on the trot. Where season-long stalwarts like Jason Davidson and Shane Lowry, failed to take their Reddy-made opportunities to win the game, it fell to fringe player Joel Chianese to take Glory’s eighth penalty.

Popovic premonition? Pre-penalties pep talk with Chianese.
Photo: Paul McNeela

As hush descended on the hoarse insane exhortations of the Shed, the Popovic-polished forward, gazed down at the ball, steadied himself for a second or two, and Izzo was beaten. So, at last, was Adelaide.

Bedlam ensued. The hopelessly hoarse attempted to converse, until accepting the futility of their endeavours, and enjoying the moment in solitude, huttering to themselves.

The Glory faithful had never seen a night quite like it. And for the next hour or so, Perth was the best place on Earth.

Grand Final next weekend. We might even squeeze another Prime Minister in by then. Are you Reddy for this?



About Author

Scozzie reporting on A-League and other stuff from the Indian Ocean shores. St. Johnstone fan. Follow me on twitter @perthmcneela.

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