Le Fondre strike beats Glory

Sydney FC beat minor premiers Perth Glory for the second time this season and closed in on second spot when they won 1-0 at Jubilee Oval.

The Sky Blues picked up a fifth victory in seven games to move five points clear of third-placed Melbourne Victory.

The performance was not the big statement Sydney FC fans had hoped for ahead of the Finals Series, and the only goal of the game won't make any highlight reels of 2018/19.

But Adam le Fondre's 16th goal of his first campaign for the Sky Blues was enough to down the visitors as they suffered just their third loss of the season.

The Glory made six changes to their squad and left five of their first team regulars at home.

Coach Tony Popovic handed his 17-year-old son Kristian his debut off the bench in the second half, and he came closest to a goal when his long-range shot threatened to drop into the net.

Perth weren't able to fashion a shot on goal, but neither did the hosts pose much of a threat up front.

The goal came eight minutes before the break, when a well-weighted Anthony Caceres cross found Paulo Retre at the far post and his header was deflected into lap of le Fondre standing on the goal line.

It was an unmissable chance, and gave him his first A-League goal in seven weeks.

The Sky Blues almost doubled their lead five minutes into the second half when le Fondre slipped a pass through Perth's defence to find Retre but the fullback could only find the side netting.

That miss was nearly punished moments later when Fabio Ferreira missed the target with a half-volley against his former team.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar are 7/2 to beat Newcastle on Saturday. The Jets are 7/10, while the draw is 16/5.

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Sage: Glory vision achieved early

Owner Tony Sage admits the speed of Perth Glory's Premiers' Plate success under coach Tony Popovic has come as a surprise.

The West Australian club have clinched the minor premiership with two rounds to go in the regular season, following their 1-0 win at home to Newcastle Jets on Sunday.

It is the first time they have topped the A-League, though they were a big force in its predecessor the National Soccer League.

Sage said plans were hatched midway through last season – when the Glory failed to make the Finals Series under Kenny Lowe – for a different strategy and a new coach.

They turned to Popovic, who had led Western Sydney Wanderers to the premiership in the club's inaugural season, largely due to the urging of football manager Jacob Burns.

"There were several coaching candidates available and Jacob pushed and pushed for Popa (Tony Popovic)," said Sage.

"The vision has been fulfilled a year earlier than we expected – we had to make a decision on which direction we were going to go."

The 15-year silverware drought ended with the victory against the Jets when captain Diego Castro lifted the Premiers' Plate.

Now Sage, who has poured nearly $30 million into the Glory in more than a decade, says the club want to go on and win the championship and then start planning for next year's Asian Champions League campaign.

"We're up for the challenge – it's only going to be a feather in everyone's cap if we can do it," he added. "Asia has been a dream of mine from day one; it's going to be huge."

Perth Glory are 5/4 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 2/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/8 with the draw 9/4.

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Popovic: I’ll enjoy this success more

Head coach Tony Popovic says he will savour Perth Glory's A-League premiership success, after they secured top spot with a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

The Glory haven't won any silverware since chalking up their third NSL title in 2004, the year before the A-League began.

They missed out on last season's Finals Series but put their faith in Popovic – who led Western Sydney to the premiership in their first season in the league – to improve their fortunes.

At the first time of asking, Popovic has delivered the Premiers' Plate with two rounds still to go.

The Glory have only lost two of their 25 games so far and chalked up their 16th victory thanks to Ivan Franjic's second-half goal.

They will travel to Sydney FC, who had won the previous two premierships, in the penultimate round on Thursday and finish off the regular season at home to Wellington on 28th April.

Popovic, whose previous Premiers' Plate success came in 2012-13, said: "I probably didn't know how to enjoy that at that time. It happened so quickly and unexpectedly.

"Now I think you get more experience and you want to savour and enjoy the moment. That's probably me evolving and improving as a coach – I've tried to enjoy it with the players along the way, I think that's something I've improved."

Ahead of the trip to the Sky Blues, whose draw with Western Sydney on Saturday gave Perth the chance to clinch top spot, Popovic will have to monitor Juande and Jason Davidson who both picked up leg injuries against the Jets.

Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis is still working his way back to full fitness after dislocating his shoulder earlier this month.

The Glory are 2/1 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 11/8, with the draw 9/4.

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Ikonomidis hopes to face Jets

Striker Chris Ikonomidis is confident he will be available for Perth Glory's trip to Newcastle Jets on Sunday when the league leaders could clinch the Premier's Plate.

The Australia international missed the second half of the 3-0 win over Central Coast at the weekend after dislocating his right shoulder.

He dislocated the same shoulder two years ago and says his experience of that injury lends him to believe he can win his fitness battle to play against Newcastle at HBF Park.

"It's feeling all right. My gut feeling is it's not too serious, not as bad as last time. I'm pretty optimistic," he said.

"I knew straight away what was going on but it went back pretty quickly, which is positive. I don't want to miss games, especially this close to the end of the season when we could win the title."

If Sydney FC fail to win their derby clash with Western Sydney on Saturday, Perth will go into the Jets clash knowing victory will secure their first A-League minor premiership.

It would mark a big turnaround for the club under Tony Popovic, who took over as coach in the off-season after Kenny Lowe had failed to get them into the Finals Series last season.

Popovic says Socceroos central defender Matthew Spiranovic has been a big factor in their success. The 30-year-old returned against the Mariners for his first game in five weeks and was a commanding figure in the victory against the bottom club.

In the 11 games Spiranovic has played this season the Glory have conceded just six goals and have kept six clean sheets. In their 13 matches without him they have let in 16 goals.

Popovic said of him: "He is a classy player, that's exactly what he is. We've tried to nurse him along in this little period and not force him back and he showed his quality amongst the team."

Perth Glory are 7/5 to win the Grand Final and 4/9 to win their next game against Newcastle Jets, who are 6/1 with the draw 10/3.

Glory land Fornaroli on two-year deal

Former Melbourne City striker Bruno Fornaroli has signed for A-League leaders Perth Glory.

The Uruguayan is ineligible for the rest of this campaign but will play for Tony Popovic's side for the next two seasons.

Perth wanted to sign the 31-year-old during the transfer window but weren't able to agree a transfer.

Fornaroli, who scored 57 goals in 83 games for City and won the A-League's Golden Boot in 2015-16, fell out dramatically with coach Warren Joyce at the start of this season.

He was left out of the team after the first five rounds, and didn't feature in the team before his contract was terminated by mutual consent last month.

The former Sampdoria and Panathinaikos striker will link up with Andy Keogh and Diego Castro in a formidable Perth forward line.

Perth owner and chairman Tony Sage said: "The signing of Bruno is another strong statement of intent in terms of our ambition to bring sustained success to Perth Glory.

"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."

Fornaroli scored 23 goals during the regular season in 2015-16, five more than his nearest challenger.

The following season he was handed the captaincy following Patrick Kisnorbo's retirement, and also became the fastest player to score 30 goals in the A-League.

Fornaroli said: "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.

"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."

Perth Glory are 6/4 to win the Grand Final.

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

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Popovic: No complacency at Glory

Coach Tony Popovic says he's not worried about complacency creeping into his Perth Glory side in the final rounds of the A-League season.

The Glory moved nine points clear at the top with a 2-0 win away to Adelaide United, where Diego Castro and Andy Keogh scored.

Perth have played a game more than second-placed Sydney FC, who are bidding for a third consecutive Premier's Plate.

But they have now gone 13 games unbeaten, winning nine of those matches, and look tough to stop.

The Glory have just finished a tough sequence of three consecutive away matches, and now have three of their remaining five games at home.

Popovic says the team can improve further, though, after they squandered a number of chances at Coopers Stadium.

"You need to punish teams when you're on top and you get clear opportunities. And we had numerous chances in the box … to really put the game away and we didn't," added the former Western Sydney coach.

Perth have only lost one of their 22 games this season, and Popovic says they will maintain their focus for the rest of the campaign.

"This group, the consistency is there, so there is no thought in my mind about complacency," he added. "When I see them train every day, there's no reason to even suggest it (complacency) to the players, to search for it, because it's not there."

The Glory have never won the Grand Final since the A-League was launched, despite having had much success in its predecessor the NSL.

Popovic, who has given his players three days off ahead of their home clash with Melbourne Victory on 30th March, said the club hadn't spoken about expectation changing anything.

"We have spoken throughout the whole year about creating a possibility to win trophies – that is what we speak about all the time," he added. "Clearly the opportunity is still there now so we continue with that message and we'll see where it takes us."

Meanwhile, defending premiers Sydney FC are 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 3/1 with the draw 5/2.

Sydney are 6/1 to win the game 1-0.

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Kilkenny: Teams happy with draw against us

Perth Glory feel Adelaide United might play more positive tactics against them on Friday than they have faced in their last few games.

Neil Kilkenny believes teams have taken an approach against the league leaders that a point would be enough.

With Adelaide having lost their top-four spot last weekend when Wellington Phoenix got a goal difference boost with their 8-2 win against Central Coast, it means United are likely to be chasing victory in the Coopers Stadium clash.

Perth have been frustrated in their past two games, being held to a 1-1 draw at Western Sydney and then drawing 2-2 away to Melbourne City.

It's cut their lead at the top to six points, with nearest rivals Sydney FC doing their best to reel them in and win the minor premiership for a third straight season.

Kilkenny said: "We've found that over the last four, five or six games that teams are happy with a draw against us. Even when we go away from home, they look to stop us from playing instead of actually looking to play themselves to a certain extent.

"That's what we have to deal with at the top of the league and hopefully we can keep pushing, keep progressing and get the three points on Friday."

Coach Tony Popovic says watching A-League rivals play in the Asian Champions League has made him envious and he is determined that Perth will finish the season in top spot so they can earn a guaranteed spot in next year's edition.

"It would be nice to experience what Melbourne Victory and Sydney are this year," said the coach, who guided Western Sydney to the ACL title in 2014.

"We'll do everything we can in our power to bring that experience to our fans and our football club."

Glory are on a 12-match unbeaten run and are yet to lose away from home.

Perth Glory are 13/8 to win the Grand Final.

The Glory are 11/8 to win their next game against Adelaide United, who are 2/1 with the draw 5/2.

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Glory wait on Fornaroli offer

Perth Glory owner Tony Sage says he's not counting his chickens in the club's bid to bring in striker Bruno Fornaroli.

The Uruguayan was released by Melbourne City on Wednesday, having not featured in their squad since the opening four rounds of the A-League season.

Reports suggest he is in line for a $1.2million contract with the A-League leaders starting next season, but Sage says the move is not yet cut-and-dried for the 31-year-old.

"Bruno Fornaroli has just parted ways with City and Tony Popovic showed interest," he added. "Agents are talking to management and who knows what will happen.

"He's obviously got lots and lots of different offers on the table – until you get a signed contract from a player it's not a done deal. We showed interest, it's up to him now to show interest in Perth Glory."

Sydney FC are also interested in the former Golden Boot winner, having failed to snare him in the off-season from City.

The Glory have several players coming off contract at the end of the season, including Jason Davidson, Joel Chianese and Andy Keogh.

Socceroos striker Chris Ikonomidis is sure to attract interest and has admitted he harbours hopes of a return to Europe.

Sage said Perth wouldn't stand in the way of Ikonomides if he attracted a big offer.
"That's his goal, his dream," he added. "People leave for various reasons and you always have to be looking for various players to replace them."

The Glory are 11/8 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 2/1, with the draw 23/10.

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Popovic cool on dropped points

Conceding an injury-time goal cost Perth Glory two points at Western Sydney, but coach Tony Popovic said he was happy with his team's overall performance in the 1-1 draw at Spotless Stadium.

The A-League leaders were denied a fifth consecutive win when Tarek Elrich netted five minutes into added time.

That didn't go down too well with the former Wanderers coach on his return to his old team, but he had the consolation that Perth are still unbeaten away from home this season.

The draw extended their unbeaten run to a club-record 11th straight game.

Popovic said: "I think when you've been on our run, people get too disappointed in the changing room with a result like that because you concede right at the end.

"But it's good. It just shows us that if we're not quite at our best, anything can happen – we keep a good run away from home going and we'll try do the same again next week."

The Glory are eight points clear at the top of the table, with seven games to go.

They earned a point from what was the first of three consecutive away games – they go to Melbourne City next Sunday and visit Adelaide United after a bye.

Popovic said: "First half was excellent; for an away performance, very dominant. Second half, not so good with the ball and ultimately we paid the price."

Meanwhile, Wanderers could be without midfielder Jordan O'Doherty for the rest of the season after he suffered a suspected ACL injury in the game.

O'Doherty was stretchered off after his left knee appeared to buckle in an attempted challenge early in the match.

The Glory are 6/4 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 9/5, with the draw 23/10.

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Reddy: Popa’s best coach I’ve had

Perth Glory keeper Liam Reddy credits coach Tony Popovic with transforming the club into pace-setters in the A-League this season.

The Western Australia side, who have never won the championship, took a nine-point lead into the round.

Their chances of securing the Premiers' Plate this season were given a massive boost when they beat nearest challengers Melbourne Victory 2-1 earlier this month.

They then thrashed Brisbane Roar 4-0 at home last weekend, to ensure they'll travel in confident mood to Popovic's former team Western Sydney.

Reddy, who worked with the coach at both Sydney FC and Wanderers, said Popovic had made a big difference since being hired to replace Kenny Lowe in the off-season.

The Glory finished eighth last season, but have only lost once this term and go in search of a seventh away victory on Sunday.

Speaking of Popovic, Reddy said: "He's brought a level of professionalism that he expects and the boys have all embraced that. He's definitely the best coach that I've had.

"That's not a pop at any other coaches I've had, but he's definitely got the best out of me in terms of my performance and more so what it is to be a professional off the field too."

The keeper added: "He's just got a way of doing it and if you don't want to do it, don't do it, but you won't be involved. The good thing is that every player has embraced that – that's why he's a good coach."

Wanderers, who are now nine points clear of bottom side Central Coast, have not lost at home to Perth since 2015.

The Glory are 17/20 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 16/5 with the draw 14/5.

Perth are 10/1 to win the game 1-0.

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