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Perth Glory's return home makes it a national league once again

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6th March, 2022
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Perth Glory’s 2-1 defeat to Adelaide United wasn’t the HBF Park homecoming the Western Australians had hoped for, but it was a timely reminder the A-Leagues are supposed to be transnational.

After 106 days away, Glory finally put their interminable road trip behind them when they ran out at HBF Park for just the second time this season.

It wasn’t quite the carnival atmosphere of their sold-out season opener, with Western Australia’s ever-changing border restrictions and the high cost of tickets at HBF Park ensuring plenty of spare seats remained under the bright autumn sunshine.

And the home side didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory, if you’ll pardon the pun, turning in an average performance against an Adelaide United side that don’t necessarily look like world-beaters themselves.

When the Reds signed beanpole Japanese striker Hiroshi Ibusuki in January, the usual cadre of online critics were quick to point out that he had scored precisely zero goals in 14 league appearances for Shimizu S-Pulse the previous season.

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Hiroshi Ibusuki

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

But what many of those critics fail to understand is that the J.League is simply a higher standard of football than the A-League Men, meaning the likes of Ibusuki and Glory defender Kosuke Ota were always going to be decent-quality footballers in Australia.

And the Reds certainly play to Ibusuki’s strengths, with new skipper Craig Goodwin floating over a tantalising corner for the big Japanese striker to bulldoze a couple of Glory defenders out of the way and head home at the far post.

Ibusuki has got more to his game than just his physical presence – it was his piledriver that Liam Reddy clawed away that led to the corner in the first place – and Reddy was replaced at half-time by reserve goalkeeper Cameron Cook because of a hip injury.

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How different would Glory’s season look if first-choice keeper Brad Jones had been fit throughout? And how much trouble is coach Richard Garcia currently in?

This week’s video review sessions will make for uncomfortable viewing after Cook let Mohamed Toure’s stinging strike from close to the byline squirm underneath him and in at the near post.

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Bruno Fornaroli pulled a goal back from the penalty spot – he’s now scored half of Glory’s 12 league goals this season – but it was the Reds who prevailed against their fierce rivals to move up to third on the ladder.

Bruno Fornaroli of the Glory celebrates a goal during the A-League

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

It was hardly champagne football, but it was at least a reminder that the A-Leagues are supposed to represent more than just a handful of clubs from Sydney and Melbourne.

COVID restrictions have made this an A-League Men season to be endured rather than enjoyed, yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that clubs like Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix have been expected just to struggle on with little assistance for the benefit of a small contingent of clubs along Australia’s east coast.

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It was no surprise to see the Sydney derby take top billing on Saturday night, and it was no surprise to see how much Western Sydney’s 2-0 win over Sydney FC meant to new Wanderers coach Mark Rudan.

Rudan played with distinction for the Sky Blues, and Western Sydney’s gritty derby win over his former club was the type of football Wanderers fans should expect from their broodingly intense coach.

Fleet-footed Wanderers midfielder Ramy Najjarine reeled defender James Donachie in hook, line and sinker for Western Sydney’s first, with Tomer Hemed confidently dispatching the deserved spot kick.

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Keanu Baccus then powered home a header from a corner in front of the Red and Black Bloc to make it 2-0, with the best thing about the goal surely the fact the standing terrace was back in action for the night.

In another era, Rudan would have ended up as Sydney FC’s coach. Yet the Sky Blues’ third loss on the trot was a reminder that for all the talk about building a football culture, what fans really care about are victories.

That’s the only thing that will keep Richard Garcia in a job, even if seeing Perth Glory back at home was also a victory of sorts.

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