Glory go seven points clear

Perth Glory opened up a seven-point gap at the top of the A-League with a 2-1 win away to nearest rivals Melbourne Victory.

Tony Popovic's side took a big step towards securing the premiership after taking a two-goal lead in the second half at AAMI Park.

Though Kosta Barbarouses pulled one back with 13 minutes to go the visitors held strong to see off Kevin Muscat's side for the second time this season.

There was controversy over the first Glory goal, scored from the penalty spot by Neil Kilkenny on 61 minutes, but Diego Castro produced an emphatic finish to double their advantage eight minutes later.

Neither side could find a cutting edge in the first half, with Barbarouses firing over and Elvis Kamsoba drawing a save from Perth keeper Liam Reddy.

Ivan Franjic sliced a shot wide for the visitors and they twice went close just before the break. First Chris Ikonomidis shot into the side netting, before Kenny Athiu had an effort blocked from close range.

Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas did well to palm away an effort from Castro just before the hour mark, with Perth then taking the lead.

Kilkenny's flicked pass into the penalty area struck the hand of full-back Corey Brown and he stepped up to convert the spot-kick.

Ikonomidis set up the second goal for Castro, his cross being volleyed past Thomas to put the Glory firmly in the driving seat.

Though Victory had Keisuke Honda making his return from a niggling hamstring injury they couldn't find a way back although Barbarouses' goal from Leigh Broxham's reverse pass made for a tense finish.

The Victory are 9/4 to win the Grand Final, with Perth priced at 15/8.

View all Soccer betting

Glory unlikely to rest stars

A-League leaders Perth Glory are set to name their strongest available team when they visit Melbourne City on Saturday.

The Glory are in the middle of a period of six games in January, which comes as a big test of their premiership credentials.

So far, despite being without star forward Chris Ikonomidis, who is playing for Australia at the Asian Cup, they have been able to maintain their lead at the top.

Tony Popovic's side have won all three games this month, scoring 11 goals in the process.

Popovic has rotated his squad for the past two games against Sydney FC and Western Sydney, making six and five changes respectively.

But when asked if he was tempted to rest any of his big names against a City side who are coming off a defeat to Central Coast, the coach indicated he would be putting out his first-choice team.

"I think this game, we've got enough time … we'll pick the team we want to play this game," he said. "We'll put out a team that we believe will win … it won't involve resting anyone."

The Glory have had captain Diego Castro on the bench for two of their past three games, including last time out when he scored against Western Sydney to help spark a 4-3 comeback win.

Wing-back Jason Davidson also came off the bench against Wanderers, while midfield general Neil Kilkenny did not feature.

The Glory will equal their club-record five-game winning streak if they take all three points against City.

The Glory are 19/10 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 6/4, with the draw 9/4.

View all Soccer betting

Skipper ‘on another level’ in Glory win

Diego Castro's introduction off the bench was pivotal to Perth Glory's stunning comeback in the 4-3 win over Western Sydney, says coach Tony Popovic.

With games coming thick and fast in January, Popovic opted to leave Spanish ace Castro on the bench at HBF Park.

The coach made five changes for the meeting with his former team and things didn't go to plan in the first half as Wanderers took the lead.

The Glory were unable to get a grip on the game so Popovic sent on Castro and Jason Davidson after the break, and the skipper was outstanding.

Perth were two goals behind twice in the match but rallied to preserve their six-point lead at the top of the A-League, scoring four times in the last 20 minutes.

Popovic admitted it had been a "crazy game", and one in which his team had defended poorly.

"It was no surprise that we struggled at times but we found a way to win," added the coach. "We weren't at our best but if you want to give yourself a chance to be there at the end these are the games you have got to come through.

"Diego did what Diego does; the last half an hour he controlled the whole game. His decisions were on another level to everyone else."

Castro netted Perth's first goal, getting them back into the game at 2-1 down.

Ivan Franjic and Andy Keogh netted to get the home side back level, with Juande completing the turn-around when he scored from the penalty spot after Keogh was dragged down by Brendan Hamill.

The Glory are 9/5 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 6/4 with the draw 9/4.

View all Soccer betting

Glory cross fingers for Castro

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic would love to get Diego Castro back for the crunch clash with Sydney FC.

The Glory are undefeated after the first eight rounds but only have a two-point lead at the top as Melbourne Victory have intensified their challenge by winning six straight matches.

Perth know they will need as many of their first-choice players as possible available when they take on the Sky Blues, who have finished top of the table for the past two seasons.

Castro missed their 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium with a hamstring problem. The captain isn't, however, being affected by a recurrence of the hamstring injury which dogged him in the early weeks of the campaign according to Popovic.

"It was just tightness; a real precaution," said the coach. "He had a bit of a niggle at training, I think it was just the body adjusting to being back playing again.

"Now with a short turnaround, we need him to really train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and see him train fully for him to be able to play. We certainly hope he can; I thought he was fantastic against Melbourne City and we'll do everything possible from our end to get him out there."

Popovic says with Perth having been so consistent since the start of the season it's only natural that the hype surrounding them has increased as they establish themselves as premiership contenders.

"That's something that we spoke about through the whole pre-season; we want the expectation to grow on the club," he added. "As a team, we have a chance to challenge this year and we're showing that at the moment, we're good enough to challenge."

The Glory are 6/4 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 17/10, with the draw 12/5.

View all Soccer betting

Castro pleased with return

Skipper Diego Castro may be ready for a full 90-minute outing for the first time this season when leaders Perth Glory travel to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

The Spaniard missed the opening four rounds with a hamstring injury and hadn't been in the starting line up until last weekend's 1-0 win over Melbourne City.

Coach Tony Popovic has been easing him back into matches, naming him as a substitute in two games before deciding he could be risked from the start against City.

The 36-year-old was only withdraw five minutes before the end as the Glory made it seven consecutive unbeaten games to remain two points clear at the top of the table.

Castro said he was happy that he hadn't needed to rush back before he was ready, since the team were playing so well in their first campaign under Popovic.

"Even when I wasn't playing with the team, the team was still looking good; that takes a bit of pressure off me in terms of my recovery," he added.

"Now my focus is on taking the fitness to the best level again. I am happy with the result in that part."

When they take on last season's beaten Grand Finalists at McDonald Jones Stadium, Perth could have Spanish midfielder Juande back following a knee injury.

But they are sweating on the fitness of defender Matt Spiranovic, who lasted just 31 minutes against City on his league debut before limping off with what's believed to be a hamstring issue.

Alex Grant (foot) and Scott Neville (ankle) are still sidelined.

Perth Glory are 7/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 7/4 to win their next game against Newcastle, who are 7/5 with the draw 5/2.

View all Soccer betting

Greater depth helping Glory

Perth Glory's excellent start to the A-League campaign is in part due to them having greater depth in their squad, believes owner Tony Sage.

Former Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has made an immediate impact since taking charge, guiding the Glory to the top of the table after four rounds.

And the fact that he's been able to do so without some of the squad's top names has been significant, as far as Sage is concerned.

The owner isn't getting carried away at this early stage of the campaign, but is certainly happy to have points in the bank after three consecutive wins.

"We haven't had Diego Castro, Matthew Spiranovic, Brendon Santalab or Chris Harold play this season yet – and three out of the four would probably make the starting team in years gone by," said Sage.

"That gives you an indication of the depth at the club; when you add those players to the equation it looks pretty good.

"There's also a completely different playing style now from the Perth Glory of the last four or five years, and the fitness levels are extremely high."

Popovic coached Wanderers to the premiership as well as three Grand Finals, and Sage says he has created a lot of depth at Perth by attracting quality players who want to work under him.

Their early-season form, which has seen them build a two-point gap at the top of the table, will have fans dreaming of a first A-League championship.

During Sage's time at the club, which now spans more than a decade, Perth have reached the Grand Final once and have lost in two FFA Cup finals.

He says it won't be until Round 15 that the league starts to take shape, adding: "I'm just happy we've got points in the bag before Christmas, when in the previous four or five years we haven't had that.

"There are lots of things that can happen, in terms of injuries and such, and we're taking nothing for granted I can assure you."

Perth are 5/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/5 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 6/1 with the draw 15/4.

View all Soccer betting

Castro handed Glory armband

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is confident Diego Castro is the right man to lead the club into the new A-League season.

The Spaniard has been confirmed in the role ahead of Sunday's league opener against Western Sydney at Optus Stadium.

He will be supported by a three-man leadership team of Andy Keogh, Shane Lowry and Liam Reddy.

Popovic described Castro as a natural choice to lead the team in his first season in charge.

"During the three seasons that he has spent here at Perth Glory, he has been a leader on and off the field," said the former Wanderers coach.

"We are fortunate to have a strong leadership group in the squad which will be a great benefit for us throughout the exciting journey that lies ahead."

Castro was handed a new one-year deal in May after Popovic replaced Kenny Lowe as coach.

The former Johnny Warren Medal winner, who says the captaincy is a big honour and responsibility, doesn't expect it to change his game too much.

"It's a positive thing in my career and I'm ready for the new challenge … this will be an experience that will help me grow and develop," said the winger. "I've always tried to lead by example and suggest advice to the younger players."

Castro had lengthy spells with Sporting Gijon and Getafe before moving to the Glory as a marquee player in 2015.

He was named the A-League's player of the year in his first season, and has racked up 66 appearances and 28 goals for Perth.

The Glory are looking to rebound strongly this season after missing out on the Finals Series in Lowe's final campaign in charge.

Perth are 6/5 to win their first game of the season against Western Sydney, who are 9/4 with the draw 5/2.

The Glory are 9/1 to win the Grand Final.

View all Soccer betting

Popovic – Returning Castro a great example

Perth Glory oach Tony Popovic says marquee Diego Castro's doing everything he can to be fit for the start of the A-League season.

The Spaniard is in doubt for the opening round against Popovic's former club Western Sydney on 21st October after injuring his hamstring in the 7-0 friendly victory over Rockingham City two weeks ago.

Popovic says the attacking midfield star will be able to provide feedback on how his return is going as he knows he won't put risk himself if he is not fit.

"We'll give him every chance of course but if he's not right, he's not right," said the coach, who comes up against a side he led to Asian Champions League success. "He's obviously professional enough to be able to talk to me and say 'I'm not quite there' – he's a winner and we'll give him a chance right up to the last day."

Castro had shown great intent during the pre-season to get himself ready, said Popovic.

"He's worked extremely hard; he came back in the middle of July as opposed to coming back in September and that shows a real intent," he added. "When you have your marquee player with a history that he has in football leading the way, it's a great example."

The 7-0 win over Rockingham in which Castro was injured was the fourth match during the build-up in which Popovic's team had netted seven goals.

But they tumbled out of the FFA Cup at the first hurdle when they lost 1-0 at home to Melbourne Victory.

Also in doubt for the opening game against Wanderers is defender Matthew Spiranovic, who has a hip issue.

Perth are 10/1 to win the 2019 Grand Final.

The Glory are 11/8 to win their first game of the league season against Western Sydney, who are 15/8 with the draw 12/5.

View all Soccer betting

Popovic seeking Castro talks

New Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is keen to quickly assess what funds he has available to strengthen his squad before his first season in charge.

Popovic, who led Western Sydney Wanderers to an A-League premiership and the 2014 Asian Champions League title, flew into Perth on Wednesday for his first day at the office.

Talks with star Diego Castro are among his priorities as he looks to improve the team following their failure to make last season's Finals Series.

Popovic arrived with fewer than ten players signed up for the 2018/19 campaign, their departures since the end of last season having included Australia international striker Adam Taggart, Andreu Guerao, Jeremy Walker and Joseph Mills.

"We have several players we can bring in and possibly more," said the former Crystal Palace assistant manager. "It all depends on what we have remaining in the salary cap.

"This is certainly a challenge for us but there are opportunities to bring in fresh players, players have that hunger and desire to make Perth Glory great again."

Popovic succeeded Kenny Lowe, who has moved into a youth team role, and says he will meet Castro and owner Tony Sage this week to discuss future plans.

Speaking of 35-year-old Castro, who won the Johnny Warren Medal as the A-League's player of the year in 2015-16, the coach said: "I have to ascertain first and foremost does he want to stay. We can have a talk about it and make a decision on which way we want to go."

Popovic's first game in charge will be a marquee friendly with Chelsea on 23rd July.

Perth are 16/1 to win the 2019 Grand Final. The Glory are 33/1 to win the Premier's Plate.

View all Soccer betting

Glory ground second-placed Jets

Perth Glory did what they needed to do to keep their Finals Series hopes alive, as they won 2-0 at Newcastle Jets.

The visitors, who were eighth in the table going into the penultimate round, knew only a win would do at McDonald Jones Stadium.

And they used first-half goals from Diego Castro and Adam Taggart to down Ernie Merrick's side, who are safe in second place.

Seeking a quick response following the damaging home defeat to Sydney FC last time out, Perth applied pressure early on and took the lead via a Castro penalty after Riley McGree clipped an airborne Joseph Mills.

Taggart fired just wide soon after, then had a shot smothered by keeper Jack Duncan as the visitors maintained their intensity, with Castro being denied by the crossbar.

Former Newcastle striker Taggart doubled Perth's lead midway through the first half. Castro's ball put Joel Chianese away before he found the Socceroo for the finish.

Duncan did well to prevent Chianese making it 3-0 just before the interval, from a one-on-one chance.

Substitute Joey Champness had the Jets' best effort of the second half, when keeper Liam Reddy stopped his header on the goal-line.

Glory coach Kenny Lowe said: "We didn't carry anyone at all and it just goes to show if we can get the more experienced players on the pitch, we're very competitive.

"The last six games of the season, we'll have played all the top six sides and, at present, we've only dropped points to a team (Sydney FC) that's lost only four games in the past two seasons."

Newcastle Jets are 4/1 to win the Grand Final with Central Coast Mariners 19/10 to finish bottom while Melbourne rivals City and Victory are 20/1 to be the two grand finalists.

View all Soccer betting