Sydney FC outlasted a resilient Perth Glory in a 3-2 win at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, which featured a two-hour delay at half-time due to repeat lightning strikes.
The Sky Blues held a two-goal lead at half-time through Joe Lolley and Robert Mak, before the delays which, at one point, looked capable of halting the game altogether after the first half.
But play did resume at 10.30pm AEDT, nearly three hours after kick-off.
Adam Taggart struck back for Perth after the restart to halve the deficit. Then came late drama as Mitchell Glasson put Sydney two goals ahead with the aid of a heavy deflection off Aleksandar Šuśnjar, only for Oliver Bozanic to strike with a superb late free-kick to give Glory hope at 3-2.
The game finally drew to a close after a frantic finish with Sydney holding their slender lead to the final whistle.
Perth began the game on the front foot, but early chances wasted proved costly by half-time as the Sky Blues went into the break holding a two-goal lead.
Taggart had an opportunity inside four minutes when he latched onto a tempting cross from the left wing. With one touch he skipped past goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne but his attempt to squeeze the ball home was thwarted by desperate Sydney defending on the goal line.
Luke Ivanovic then spurned a gilt-edged chance, Perth’s best of the half.
Played in on goal by a masterful lofted Oli Bozanic through ball, Ivanovic took one touch off his chest to go one-on-one with Redmayne, and elected not to play the ball into the path of Taggart and instead blasted his shot over the bar.
The offside flag was raised – but VAR may have reversed the decision if the ball hit the back of the net.
Sydney went on to make Perth pay. Robert Mak threatened with a poked shot from close range, with Patrick Wood and Joe Lolley both having chances.
The match clock ticked past 30 minutes with Sydney in control, before Lolley scored the opening goal. Lolley was thwarted by Glory keeper Cameron Cook, then Wood saw his resulting shot blocked by Mark Beevers. Unfortunately for Perth, the deflection fell to Lolley who whipped a left-footed strike into the top corner.
Just before half-time, the hosts made it 2-0. Mak was the architect of the second Sydney goal, cutting past Giordano Colli on the edge of the area, regaining control of the ball after Darryl Lachman’s attempted clearance before putting John Koutroumbis on the deck with a cut onto his right foot to finish.
The second half was delayed due to lightning strikes in the area.
Play was halted at Allianz Stadium for two hours as the repeat strikes pushed the restart back further; fears the game would be called off after the first half were abated when, finally, at 10.30pm AEDT, the game resumed with Sydney leading 2-0.
Lolley had the chance to make it 3-0 soon after the restart. Played down the right wing, Lolley had space to take control and size up the target – but his shot was directed straight at Cook who made a strong save.
Then, Taggart struck to cut the margin in half.
Stefan Colakovski began the move with a one-two with Koutroumbis, then played Taggart through on goal to finish into the bottom-left corner. There was a delay as VAR checked for offside, but the goal was allowed to stand.
It set up a frantic finish at Allianz Stadium.
Glasson thought he’d put the game to bed when his close-range shot deflected off Glory defender Šuśnjar and in, wheeling away in celebration in front of the Sky Blues’ active support.
But Glory would make things interesting again shortly after, with Bozanic whipping a free-kick from a tight angle into the top-left corner to make it 3-2. Despite their resilience, Glory could not find a third goal as Sydney survived to claim all three points in a five-goal thriller.
The talking point
Lightning strikes near Allianz Stadium meant a significant delay for the restart to the second half – and it led to some entertaining antics at the ground as fans and the broadcasters on Network 10 joined the players and coaches in scrambling for ways to pass the time.
Some fans in the stands found interesting ways to keep busy…
While Network 10’s Daniel Garb found a Sky Blues fan among the crowd who had travelled all the way from Texas to watch his new favourite team in action, leading to a feel-good interview.
With Sydney holding a 2-0 lead at the break, the A-Leagues competition rules summary states that the Sky Blues would have earned all three points had the game failed to resume.
Luckily, for the fans who braved the wet and the lengthy pause between the two halves, the game was back underway nearly two hours after it began – and those watching on in the stands and at home were treated to a dramatic three-goal second stanza which ended with Sydney winning by three goals to two.
What they said
Hear from Sydney FC head coach Ufuk Talay and Perth Glory boss Alen Stajcic as they dissected the action post-game: