Glory trio among big winners at Dolan Warren Awards
Perth Glory trio Chris Ikonomidis, Tony Popovic and Sam Kerr have all received honours at this evening’s Dolan Warren Awards held at The Star Event Centre in Sydney.
Ikonomidis marked his debut season in purple by claiming the Hyundai A-League NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award, Popovic was crowned Hyundai A-League Coach of the Year for a second time and Kerr retained her Westfield W-League Nike Golden Boot Award.
The Johnny Warren Medal was won by Wellington’s Roy Krishna, but Glory players featured prominently in the race for the award, with Neil Kilkenny finishing second alongside Adelaide United’s Isaias and Diego Castro sharing fourth spot with Keisuke Honda of Melbourne Victory.
Christine Nairn of Melbourne Victory, meanwhile, claimed the Julie Dolan Medal, the Westfield W-League’s highest honour and Krishna added the Nike Golden Boot to his Johnny Warren Medal.
Other winners on the night included Ellie Carpenter of Canberra United (Westfield W-League NAB Young Footballer of the Year), Jeff Hopkins of Melbourne Victory (Westfield W-League Coach of the Year) and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Fabian Monge (Foxtel Y-League Player of the Year).
Glory’s strong representation among the winners was spearheaded by Ikonomidis who bagged nine goals in 18 starts, while Popovic guided the club to its maiden Hyundai A-League Premiership and second Grand Final appearance, setting a host of new records along the way.
Kerr also enjoyed yet another stellar campaign in which she found the net 13 times as Glory reached a third Westfield W-League Grand Final.
The judging panel for the Johnny Warren and Julie Dolan Medals included former professional players, referees, technical experts and members of the media for the Hyundai A-League regular season.
Panel members from each of the four groups were appointed to vote on a 3-2-1 basis on every match.
Glory seal Grand Final spot with epic shootout victory
Perth Glory will play in their second Hyundai A-League Grand Final next weekend after a night of incredible drama ended in a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Adelaide United at HBF Park.
In front of a new club record A-League crowd of 17,868, Glory led 2-0 during normal time courtesy of Diego Castro's brace, only to be pegged back by Baba Diawara's close-range finish and Ryan Kitto's stoppage-time strike.
The hosts then regained the lead in the first period of extra-time via substitute Scott Neville's header, before the Reds responded in kind through Michael Marrone five minutes from the end.
Respective skippers Castro and Isaias duly saw their spot-kicks saved during the subsequent shootout which went to sudden-death with the two sides locked at 4-4.
Liam Reddy and Paul Izzo proceeded to save two more penalties apiece before the Glory man, who had scored earlier in the shootout, produced a third incredible stop to keep out Nathan Konstandopoulos.
And so it was left to Joel Chianese to step up and fire Tony Popovic's side into next week's showpiece decider and end Adelaide's season in the cruellest of fashions.
In his post-match interview, Glory's Head Coach was quick to compare the night's remarkable events to the two European Champions League Semi-Finals from earlier in the week.
"It was a crazy game and I think we learned in world football this week that anything can happen," he said.
"We led right until the end and Adelaide showed the incredible spirit they have as a team [to come back].
"Our character then was amazing. We stayed composed in the penalty shootout and it was tough.
"With the character that they [the Glory players] have shown all year, it didn't surprise me that they had enough to win the game."
Adelaide began the game brightly, George Blackwood forcing the first save of the night from Liam Reddy after climbing highest to nod a fine Craig Goodwin cross goalward.
But Glory's response to that early scare was almost instant, Dino Djulbic meeting Jason Davidson's cross with a thumping header that left Izzo grasping thin air only for the ball to crash down back out off the underside of the bar and bounce back out without crossing the line.
Both teams continued to threaten in a compelling opening quarter and eventually it was the hosts who made the breakthrough on 29 minutes.
Chris Ikonomidis bisected the Adelaide defence with an inch-perfect pass and Andy Keogh's decoy run drew two defenders away from the ball allowing Castro to race in and crash home his shot at the near post.
Glory went close again shortly before the break, Izzo just doing enough to keep out Ivan Franjic's stinging cross-shot which threatened to creep in at the far post.
The Reds began the second half as strongly as they had the first, but again failed to unduly trouble Reddy and were ultimately punished for a second time by Castro with 16 minutes left.
This time Davidson led a rapid counter-attack and fed Ikonimidis who in turn picked out Castro on the left flank.
The Spaniard then cut inside on to his right foot and neatly placed his shot wide of Izzo's despairing dive into the bottom corner.
The visitors, however, were far from done and swiftly halved the arrears via substitute Diawara who struck from close range after Glory had failed to clear their lines.
And deep into stoppage-time, Kitto fired through a crowded box to ensure at least another 30 minutes would be needed to separate the sides.
Just before the break in extra-time, substitute Neville nodded home a superb Davidson cross to make it 3-2, but that goal was cancelled out by a very similar headed effort from Marrone five minutes from time.
So penalties were required and with the tension becoming all but unbearable, Reddy and Chianese emerged as the heroes who stepped forward to haul the men in purple over the line.
Glory restored their six-point lead at the top of the Hyundai A-League ladder as first-half goals from Joel Chianese and Dino Djulbic and a second-half penalty from Neil Kilkenny secured a well-deserved, 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Tony Popovic's men rarely looked back after Chianese's fifth goal of the season gave them the lead in the 12th minute, with Djulbic's towering header duly making it 2-0 before the break.
And Glory's victory, their eighth on the road this season, was effectively made safe on 57 minutes when Diego Castro was tripped in the box and Kilkenny converted clinically from the spot.
The margin of victory could have been even greater, with home 'keeper Ben Kennedy producing a fine save to push a stinging Juande volley onto the post in the second half, while the closest the hosts came to scoring was when Brendon Santalab inadvertently deflected a free-kick from fellow-substitute Andrew Hoole on to the cross bar with 11 minutes left.
Unsurprisingly, Popovic was delighted with the performance and the result.
"Overall, it was an excellent display," he said.
"We started so well and I felt that we should have had a few more goals early on which would have made it more comfortable than it was.
"It's tough coming away from home. The conditions were humid and it was a heavy pitch, but I thought the players played with real confidence and belief.
"If you look at the scoreline, you might say that it was comfortable, but we had to work really hard for everything. We defended as a team, we attacked as a team and we looked very fluent with the ball.
"Straight from the first whistle, the players were very dominant and very proactive and thoroughly deserved the win. We've taken another step towards being able to achieve something very special."
The visitors began brightly and came close to breaking the deadlock as early as the third minute when Ivan Franjic's cut-back picked out Keogh and only Kennedy's outstretched boot prevented the Irishman's subsequent shot from finding the net.
Glory were not to be denied shortly afterwards, however, Chianese capping an intricate passing move by rifling a low, angled drive into the far corner with his left foot.
Chris Ikonomidis then came close to making it 2-0, just failing to slide home an inviting low cross from Franjic who had been released down the right by a superb, defence-splitting ball from Kilkenny.
Although Jordan Murray occasionally threatened for the Mariners, it was the men in white who continued to look the more likely as the half wore on and it came as no surprise when they doubled their lead just shy of the half-hour mark.
Kilkenny's corner delivery was inch-perfect and Djulbic shrugged off the attention of several defenders to notch his first goal in over four years with a thumping header.
With Ikonomidis picking up an unfortunate shoulder injury just before the break, Castro was introduced at the start of the second half and he played a key role in Glory's third goal.
It was the Spaniard's clever footwork that lured Jacob Melling into an ill-advised lunge inside the box and after referee Daniel Elder pointed to the spot, Kilkenny stepped up to calmly send Kennedy the wrong way and successfully net his fifth successful penalty of the season.
Moments later, a Kilkenny corner almost yielded another goal, Juande ghosting in unmarked at the far post and firing in a crisp volley which was parried by Kennedy onto the post and away to safety.
The crossbar then prevented the Mariners from claiming a late consolation as Hoole's deflected free-kick cannoned back out, but although they managed to force a flurry of late corners, that was as close as Alen Stajcic's side came to denying Glory a tenth clean sheet of the campaign.
Perth Glory striker Brendon Santalab has announced that he intends to retire from professional football at the end of the current Hyundai A-League campaign.
The 36-year-old has enjoyed an illustrious, 20-year senior career which has included spells in Belgium, Hungary and China, as well as a highly-successful five-year stint at Western Sydney Wanderers during which he helped the red-and-blacks become the first Australian team to win the Asian Champions League.
The man from Wollongong, however, feels that another major career highlight could still be yet to come.
“I feel it is the right time,” he said.
“It’s been a fantastic year and the best part is that I have the biggest six weeks of my career coming up right now.
“I’ve waited 20 years to win a Premiership and a Grand Final and it would mean a lot to me to lift a couple of trophies at this stage of my career.
“There have been many top memories along the way, but this next six weeks could see another top memory being created that would be right up there with my Asian Champions League winners’ medal.
“To go out on a high is something that I’ve always wanted to do.
“I’m fortunate enough to be in what is an incredible squad, not only as footballers but also as people.
“It’s a privilege to play in this team and within the culture that has been created at the club this year and it will be an honour to end my career as part of this group.
“There are many, many people that I’d like to thank, one of whom is Tony Popovic who has been such an influence on the latter part of my career.
“The belief and confidence that 'Popa' instilled in me enabled me to achieve many great things while working together with him.
“He is not only a fantastic coach, but an incredible motivator and mentor.
“It’s been an amazing journey, especially over the last five years when I’ve been constantly learning and improving every day.”
Popovic, meanwhile, was similarly glowing in his praise of Santalab, both as a player and as a person.
“On the field he’s always been fiery, a winner and someone who plays on the edge,” he said.
“He has that fire in his belly and I’m sure many a defender has found it very tough to mark Brendon over the years.
“Whenever he’s crossed that white line, I’ve always felt that he’s someone I can rely on, someone who will put the team first and he always walks off having given everything that he’s got.
“Off the field, he’ll do anything for anyone. He does so much charity work and all the kids love him.
“When we were at Wanderers, even my own boys would look up to him and loved him.
“That’s the kind of character Brendon is.”
Santalab has made 13 appearances for Glory so far this term and opened his account for the club in the Round 12 win over one of his former sides, Sydney FC.
In total, to date, he has played 133 Hyundai A-League games and scored 39 goals.
Perth Glory is delighted to confirm that striker Bruno Fornaroli has signed a two–year deal with the club.
The Uruguayan arrives in the West having forged a reputation as one of the Hyundai A-League’s most prolific goalscorers during a three-and-a-half-season stint with Melbourne City.
The 31-year-old plundered a remarkable 46 goals in 70 A-League appearances, claimed the Golden Boot and made the PFA Team of the Season in 2015/16 and reached the 30-goal mark quicker than any other player in the competition’s history.
Fornaroli, who lists Sampdoria and Panathinaikos among his former clubs, is excited at the prospect of beginning a new chapter in his career with Glory.
“Tony (Popovic) said that there is a project here at Glory and that they want to play better than now and do better next season,” he said.
“I believe in the project and I believe in the coach and that’s why I’m here.
“I’m where I want to be and this is the most important thing for me. I’m very happy to be here.”
Glory Owner and Chairman Tony Sage believes that the significance of Fornaroli’s arrival cannot be overstated.
“The signing of Bruno is another strong statement of intent in terms of our ambition to bring sustained success to Perth Glory,” he said.
“Players with his great goalscoring pedigree are always in huge demand and we beat off stiff competition from a host of clubs from all over the world to sign him.”
Glory CEO Tony Pignata, meanwhile, feels that the recruitment of one of the competition’s most exciting and highest-profile players will delight the club’s fan base.
“I’m sure that all of our members and fans will be hugely excited to see Bruno lining up in purple next term,” he said.
“He made it very clear that he wanted to be a part of what we are in the process of creating here at Glory and it is fantastic to have him on board.”
And Glory Football Director Jacob Burns was quick to pay tribute to Tony Sage for enabling the deal to be done.
“It is testament to our Chairman and Owner’s commitment to Perth Glory that he has made it possible for the club to secure Bruno’s services,” he said.
“He has been one of the Hyundai A-League’s most prolific and complete forwards over the last few years and we look forward to him playing a key role for us next season and beyond.”
Fornaroli has been allocated the number 10 shirt for the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season.