Perth marquee man Shane Smeltz scored his third goal of the A-League season to inspire the Glory to a 1-0 victory over Wellington Phoenix at nib Stadium on Sunday.
Smeltz latched on to the end of a beautiful set-piece play to notch the winner in the 33rd minute, lifting the unbeaten Glory to equal top of the table with fellow pacesetters Brisbane.
The 30-year-old Kiwi international, who spent two seasons at the Phoenix, had a chance to bag a double against his former club, but sprayed his 70th-minute effort way over the crossbar after making a tiring 30m run into the box.
Wellington were reduced to 10 men in the 93rd minute when defender Manny Muscat was shown a second yellow card for elbowing Billy Mehmet as he contested a header.
The Phoenix almost scored an equaliser in the 54th minute, but a fingertip from Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was enough to send Ben Sigmund’s goalward-bound header into the crossbar and safely away.
Perth will be aiming to make it a club record fourth A-League win on the trot when they take on Central Coast at Bluetongue Stadium next Saturday.
In a physical first half, Phoenix players Ben Sigmund, Muscat and Daniel all received yellow cards, while Perth’s Liam Miller also went into the book for diving.
Glory defender Chris Coyne was left bloodied after a clash of heads with Dani Sanchez, but it was the Phoenix midfielder that came off second best, spending several minutes on the turf regaining his senses before being cleared to return to the fray.
Wellington created the better chances early on but it was Perth who struck first after Bas van den Brink headed Jacob Burns’ pinpoint free-kick straight into the path of a surging Smeltz.
Smeltz, who scored a double against Melbourne Heart last week, tucked away the volley with ease much to the delight of the 8299 fans on hand.
“In five years we’ve been coming here I’m not sure we’ve ever played as well,” Wellington coach Ricki Herbert said.
“I thought we were totally dominant tonight. I’m kind of lost for words. I thought we were very good, second half especially.
“We had some good goalscoring opportunities in the first half as well. But one set play and you get punished for it.”
Glory coach Ian Ferguson conceded his team were lucky to come away with all three points.
“It wasn’t a great performance but I’ve seen us play better and come away with nothing, so you’ve got to be happy with that,” Ferguson said.
“It’s funny, I’ve just come out of that dressing room and we’re bitterly disappointed but we’re grateful and delighted with the three points. We know we’ve got to do better.”
Ferguson said midfielder Liam Miller, who limped off late in the match, had just suffered cramp.
by Buford Balony