Two crucial moments highlight what’s ‘really exciting’ about ‘fantastic’ Glory youngster in Sydney draw

Perth Glory v Sydney FC - Highlights | Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24 | Round 12

Sydney FC’s five-year unbeaten streak at HBF Park is still intact after a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory at the venue on Wednesday night.

Joe Lolley opened the scoring for Sydney from the penalty spot before a red card to Sky Blues teenager Jake Girdwood-Reich swung momentum back in favour of the home side prior to half-time.

Glory defender Kaelan Majekodunmi levelled the score with a thumping second-half header but Perth couldn’t capitalise on their monopoly of possession to take three points from the midweek encounter.

REACTION: Sydney teen sees red for ‘rugby tackle’

The Sky Blues climbed above Macarthur FC into fourth spot thanks to the hard-earned point on the road, and kept their impressive streak at HBF Park alive.

Sydney haven’t lost at HBF Park since January, 2019 and a first-half penalty – converted with authority by Lolley – put the visitors on track to extend that streak.

Jordan Courtney-Perkins won the spot kick at the end of a sleek passage of play in Sydney’s front third; Jaiden Kucharski back-heeled the ball into the path of Courtney Perkins and his touch took the ball past Bruce Kamau, whose boot instead made contact with the Sydney defender in the box.

Lolley lashed his penalty down the middle of goal to give Sydney a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.

The away side had the lead and all the momentum until Girdwood-Reich tangled with Adam Taggart as the Glory striker got in behind Sydney’s defence and attempted to latch onto a lofted through ball.

Girdwood-Reich bundled Taggart to the ground – but perhaps assessing the ball was drifting behind the Glory co-captain, referee Alex King elected initially to award a yellow card.

Then came a lengthy VAR review, as King assessed the incident on the pitch-side monitor. He returned to the field of play to upgrade Girdwood-Reich’s yellow to red, sending the 19-year-old to the stands and reducing Sydney to 10 men.

REACTION: Sydney teen sees red for ‘rugby tackle’

Glory boss Alen Stajcic brought Jarrod Carluccio off his bench at the break and just 10 minutes into the second half, the substitute was in the thick of another moment of controversy – this time going against the home side.

Carluccio skipped past Rhyan Grant in the box and went down under perceived contact from the Sydney defender, who had left his left leg dangling in Carluccio’s path as he shifted the ball into free space.

Referee King reviewed the incident on the monitor but returned to the field of play content with upholding his original decision: no penalty.

Glory’s frustration built until Majekodunmi’s emphatic equaliser.

Riley Warland supplied the delivery and did the rest, rising above Courtney-Perkins with an athletic leap to find the top-left corner with an expertly placed header.

Taggart had the chance to put Glory into the lead soon after but Andrew Redmayne produced a clutch save from inside the six-yard box to keep Sydney on level terms.

David Williams and Daniel Bennie both had late chances to capitalise fully on Glory’s one-man advantage but neither player could put their shots on target as Sydney came away from HBF Park with a point, keeping their five-year undefeated streak at the Perth venue alive.

Perth spent more than 60 minutes of game time with a one-man advantage, and ended the game with 62% of possession, and 28 shots to Sydney’s seven – but could only muster a point as their 2023-24 campaign continues to drift towards a disappointing end.

But one positive Glory fans can take from the season to date is the emergence of a number of young players – Majekodunmi being one of the shining lights.

His second goal of his first season in the Isuzu UTE A-League came before a contribution of similar importance down the other end; with less than 10 minutes to play Sydney launched a rare attack and if not for Majekodunmi’s lunging interception, Anthony Caceres’ cross toward the back post looked certain to land at the feet of Nathan Amanatidis to score a close-range winner for Sydney FC.

Post-game, Paramount+ commentary duo Ben Homer and Daniel McBreen praised Majekodunmi for his efforts at both ends which at first put Perth on level terms, and then ensured they stayed there.

“We really liked Majekodunmi tonight, didn’t we?” McBreen asked. “I thought at both ends of the field he was good. He got the goal they needed to bring them level, but he was fantastic across the board.

“This man, he was the difference-maker for Perth Glory tonight. A wonderful header, he had a couple of good interventions at the other end as well when they were under pressure. Even when Sydney came at them on the break later on in the game, he got there.

“I thought he was fantastic. He’s one really to look forward to in future years.”

“Really exciting young player,” Homer added. “Another to have come through the league this season. We have really enjoyed watching him in the purple of Perth Glory.”