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

Kilkenny happy to set the pace

Perth Glory have been able to cope with the unaccustomed role of front-runners this season, says Neil Kilkenny.

The Glory are continuing to lead the way in the A-League, with just one defeat in the first 16 rounds.

Kilkenny netted his fourth goal of the season as they restored a four-point gap at the top by beating Newcastle Jets last week.

Perth have taken over from the Jets this season as the A-League's surprise package – the Jets went from wooden-spoon team to reaching the 2017/18 Grand Final while the Glory are the pace-setters this time after finishing eighth last term.

Kilkenny says other teams in the league have been playing tactics designed to stifle them and stop Tony Popovic's side playing football – but it hasn't worked.

The 33-year-old midfielder says the 0-0 draws they had against Melbourne City and Adelaide United before beating Newcastle were clear examples of that.

"People say that we didn't play so well. I think a lot of teams now are showing us a lot of respect by changing formations to nullify us," said Kilkenny, who is the league's most accurate long-range passer.

"They all go man-for-man now because they don't want to leave someone free because they know we want to play."

Popovic has been instrumental in the change of fortunes by the Glory, producing the kind of immediate impact he had when he was coach of Western Sydney Wanderers. He led Wanderers to the minor premiership in their first season in the A-League, in 2012/13.

The Glory now hope he can continue his success and lead them to a first A-League Grand Final – they won the last two Grand Finals in the NSL before the new league started but their only appearance in the A-League version was a losing one in 2012.

Perth will be boosted by the return of forward Chris Ikonomidis against Wellington after Australia made an early exit from the Asian Cup.

Perth Glory are 5/2 to win the Grand Final and 8/11 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 7/2 with the draw 11/4.

Glory remain unbeaten

Neil Kilkenny scored one goal and had a hand in the other as Perth Glory picked up a hard-fought 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

Kilkenny struck with an early penalty to put the visitors in front at McDonald Jones Stadium and his free-kick helped set up the second goal before the break for Jason Davidson.

It was Perth's third win away from home this season and ensured they remain at the top of the A-League ladder at the end of the round, despite Melbourne Victory having won their last six games.

The Glory maintain their advantage over Kevin Muscat's side after winning away to the team that reached last season's Grand Final.

Coach Tony Popovic was pleased with the way his side continued their unbeaten start to the season, saying the players had put in an outstanding effort against the Jets.

"We're deservedly top of the table and there is a real spirit among the playing group and the staff and we want this momentum to continue," he said. "But we know how quickly things can change in football and no-one is taking this for granted."

Joel Chianese was fouled by keeper Glen Moss to win a penalty for the visitors, which was upheld after consultation with the VAR, and Kilkenny kept his nerve to send Moss the wrong way to open the scoring.

Newcastle, having been denied at the start of the game when Jair's powerful volley was kept out by keeper Liam Reddy, saw Jair glance a header against the inside of the post later in the half.

The Brazilian also forced Reddy to make a smart stop low to his left with a snap-shot from just inside the area, but the all-important second goal of the game came at the other end.

Just after Tomislav Mrcela had volleyed over the bar, the Glory scored when Davidson netted his first goal for the club. He fired into the roof of the net after Kilkenny's free-kick was headed up by Dino Djulbic and Mrcela and Moss fumbled the ball under pressure.

Perth went on to secure a third clean sheet of the season and extend their unbeaten run in Newcastle to a remarkable 11 games.

The Glory are 4/1 to win the Grand Final and 6/4 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 17/10 with the draw 12/5.

Kilkenny opens up on City exit

Neil Kilkenny says his mental strength helped him cope with the tough times at Melbourne City, and admitted it felt good to score against them for Perth Glory.

Kilkenny was almost totally overlooked at City once Warren Joyce took over as coach before the start of the season.

He'd been the club's MVP last season, but under Joyce he managed just 73 minutes of action before quitting in disgust last month.

On what was his first meeting with his former club, Kilkenny scored the equaliser with five minutes to go that helped them claim a 2-1 victory.

The 32-year-old struck when it was beginning to look like City would hold onto their first-half lead despite being reduced to 10 men when Bart Schenkeveld was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Adam Taggart popped up for the winner in the eighth minute of stoppage-time to keep Glory's finals hopes alive. They'd lost seven of their previous eight games, but are only four points off the Finals Series places.

Talking of his time at City, Kilkenny said: "I had to be mentally strong, and luckily I did. Because I knew once I eventually did leave, I knew I would be playing."

The midfielder, who's flourished since his arrival in Perth, was sure Joyce was mistaken when the coach said he hadn't seen his former player's goal.

In the lead-up to the game, Joyce had insinuated Kilkenny's training standards weren't up to scratch this season.

"To go from what I was last season, to non-existent this season … people don't know what I went through mentally," said Kilkenny.

"Every day I was coming into training and working my socks off, and knowing I wasn't going to be playing on the weekend.

When a manager treats you the way I was treated from the start of the season – as a player you can't really say much.

The Glory are 11/4 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 10/11 with the draw 13/5.

The Glory are 16/1 to win the game 1-0.

View all Soccer betting

Kilkenny: Glory can make finals

New arrival Neil Kilkenny is confident he'll stay with Perth Glory long-term, and that the team will make this season's Finals Series.

The experienced midfielder has inked a short-term contract for the rest of the season.

His arrival, at the same time as defender Dino Djulbic who's back at the Glory for a third stint, could help turn the club's fortunes around.

Kenny Lowe's side have 10 regular season games left to stage a rally, having slipped to second-bottom spot.

Glory beat a number of other A-league sides and overseas clubs to Kilkenny's signature after he parted ways with Melbourne City.

He's in line to make his debut in Sunday's clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at nib Stadium.

Kilkenny said: "I'll be here beyond 10 games. We'll make the finals; of course we can make the finals – I know the ambition the club has and hopefully I can help them succeed."

The former Socceroo, who played for the likes of Leeds United and Birmingham City during his time in England, says Lowe and Perth head of football Jacob Burns had been honest with him about what they wanted.

"Hopefully I can repay them, do well in training and get into the team," he added. "I'll do as well as I can until the end of the season and then we'll go from there."

The Glory have lost five games in a row heading into the Western Sydney clash, and another defeat would leave them six points adrift of the Finals Series places.

Perth are 31/20 to beat Wanderers, who are 17/10 with the draw 5/2.

The Glory are 10/1 to win 1-0.

View all Soccer betting

New faces can boost Glory

Bringing in Dino Djulbic and Neil Kilkenny could help Perth turn their season around, says former Glory defender Chris Coyne.

Perth have lost their last five games and slipped to ninth spot, only two points above bottom side Wellington who have a game in hand on them.

The Glory defence has been leaking goals at an alarming rate – they've conceded at least three in four of the games during their barren streak that started off with a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Sydney FC on 30th December.

Badly hit by injuries, the club needed to make moves during the transfer window to restore a hard edge to their side and they've added Djulbic and Kilkenny.

Both are expected to be in the squad for Sunday's clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at nib Stadium, with central defender Djulbic in a starting role and midfielder Kilkenny on the bench.

Djulbic is back for a third spell with the Glory, having just finished a stint as an injury replacement player at Melbourne City.

Kilkenny was snapped up after being released by Melbourne City, where he'd made 28 appearances and been the club's player of the year in 2016-17.

Former Socceroo Coyne believes the Glory need to get back to basics to stop the rot, and feels coach Kenny Lowe should switch to a five-man defence.

"You set your stall out and say 'right, we are going to be hard to beat," he said.

"You can still play an expansive style of football and press numbers forward, but if you go into five at the back it means you are going to be a lot harder to score against."

Speaking of Kilkenny, Coyne added: "He's not just a body, he's a good experienced player with international experience. He'll bring a hard edge and that is something they have been lacking slightly."

Coyne has sympathy for Lowe's predicament, faced with such a heavy injury toll.

"It's tough, he has not had the luxury of being able to select the same back four," he said. "It's really difficult to build up continuity."

The Glory are 31/20 to beat Western Sydney, who are 17/10 with the draw 5/2.

View all Soccer betting