‘Football is crazy, right?’: I was there – Record 7-5 win

I Was There, Part V: Perth’s record win over Sydney FC

After losing 11-0 to Sydney FC in 2011, something had to change for Perth Glory. Fuelled by the haunting memory, the WA outfit enacted revenge the following season in a 12-goal instant classic

Elisa D’Ovidio shares her account of the story with Matthew Comito in Part V of a special new KEEPUP series delving into some of the most famous – and infamous – moments in A-Leagues history.

In December of 2011, Sydney FC beat Perth Glory by 11 goals to nil. Renee Rollason, Kylie Ledbrook and Leena Khamis all scored hat-tricks as the Sky Blues romped to the largest win in W-League history.

Glory’s Elisa D’Ovidio chased shadows until her number was called in the 65th minute – a premature end to a game she’d rather forget.

One year later the two teams met once again. Same venue, same stakes – only this time, scarred by the events of a bleak day in the club’s history, D’Ovidio and Perth travelled to Sydney with an intense hunger to enact revenge.

In the hours before kick-off, Glory head coach Jamie Harnwell used the memories of his side’s dismal defeat to inspire his charges to a remarkable 7-5 win.

“He definitely did bring it up,” D’Ovidio told KEEPUP, reflecting on Harnwell’s pre-game talk. “I mean, it’s something that you do want to forget but at the same time, you know that it happened and you don’t want to ever be in that position again. 

“We knew that we had to win that game and we didn’t want to end up with that score line again. 

“We actually had a different team so from the year before to to to that year. You know, we had different players… Aivi Luik, (Lisa) De Vanna, Sasha Andrew, we had some big names playing for us that that year. 

“We knew it was a must win. And of course, having that defeat the year before gives you that urgency to never want to get beaten like that again.

“The feeling that we had, or even personally how I felt, walking away from that 11-0 defeat is very hard to come back from. 

You kind of feel like you’ve lost your fans and the support and you almost have to get up and do it again the next week and play again and hope that defeat doesn’t happen. 

“But, you know, football is crazy, right? It’s up, it’s down and it’s rewarding, and it’s cruel.”

11-0 one year and 7-5 the next – there was a chaotic nature to this rivalry which came to a head in the second half of the 12-goal thriller on December 15, 2012.

Sydney held a 2-1 lead at the break, with Kyah Simon and Emma Kete scoring for the hosts after De Vanna struck Perth into an early advantage. The two teams emerged from the sheds for the second half, and in 45 minutes the two sides combined for nine more goals.

Perth were not willing to let Sydney take the honours this time around. 

The visitors piled on three goals in a five-minute spell to take a 4-2 lead at the hour mark, before Lillie Billson pegged one back for the Sky Blues with 62 minutes on the clock. Extraordinarily, Glory had turned a 2-1 deficit at the break into a 3-5 lead with a little less than half an hour left on the clock.

In amongst the carnage was a D’Ovidio brace struck in no time at all.

“It was literally within a minute,” she said. “The adrenaline that I felt after that just was insane. I think from there, we just we lifted. And as a group, we just knew we had to finish that game. And we did.

“It was goal-to-goal action… I think we did take the lead at some point, I think we were two goals in front. And that kind of made us a little bit at ease. And then they ended up coming back again. 

“It was chaotic, it was crazy… both teams wanted it, but I think for us, we just knew that (it) was our game. And we had to end it in a way how we wanted to end it. And I think it was that belief, again, that we had that we were in front, and that was a game and we just finished it as a team.”

D’Ovidio is surrounded by Glory teammates after scoring one of two goals in her side’s 7-5 win over the Sky Blues

Sydney scored again through Caitlin Foord in the 81st minute, bringing the hosts back to within a goal for a nerve-jangling final ten minutes of play. 

It was time for the Perth players and coaching staff to bury their collective demons, and two late goals helped do exactly that – De Vanna and Kate Gill the scorers. Sydney’s Sam Kerr put a 90th-minute consolation on the board for the home side as the 12-goal thriller ended in Perth’s favour.

“When we went into the change rooms kind of sitting there and obviously being so happy, we were just like, ‘What just happened?’,” D’Ovidio said.

“I think from that game, we just ended up receiving a lot of respect. And that was something that we probably didn’t have in the first few seasons in the W-League. 

“I think it was the start of us moving forward as a club and as a team… it probably showed how much we grew. And I think to be involved in those type of games is something that you never forget, to score two goals in a minute was crazy. 

“I never thought that would ever happen in my career. But to actually get the ball in the back of the net in crazy moments, is something that just stays with me forever.”