<
>
2018/19 Australian A League, Regular Season
  • Tarek Elrich (90'+5')
  • Christopher Ikonomidis (23')

Elrich strike grabs Western Sydney draw vs. Perth on Spotless farewell

A last-gasp goal from Tarek Elrich has given Western Sydney a share of the points against A-League leaders Perth in their final game at Spotless Stadium.

It appeared Chris Ikonomidis' first-half goal would be enough to ensure Tony Popovic's first return to Wanderland on Sunday was triumphant. However, Elrich gave a long-suffering crowd of 7,181 reason to finally cheer when he struck home from long range in the 94th minute.

The draw extends the Wanderers' unbeaten run to a season-best three games and ends the Glory's four-match winning streak. But, with a nine-point lead over nearest rival Sydney FC atop the A-League table, Popovic was unmoved by the late equaliser.

"We probably didn't retain the ball anywhere near as we did in the first half and that forced us to be deeper and deeper," Popovic said. "In the end, it was still a soft goal that we conceded, but we have to accept it and move to the next one."

The Wanderers were seemingly destined for another despairing display in the finale of their unhappy move to Spotless Stadium. Their final three home games of the season will be at ANZ Stadium.

Despite the Wanderers' struggles over the past two seasons, the league's youngest club have lost only two of 16 matches at the Olympic Park venue.

Leading goal-scorer and games record-holder Mark Bridge's return for his first game in 337 days gave the club plenty of motivation to perform. However, there was little energy from the home side and their fans from the start. A lack of atmosphere, which included another boycott of the club's active supporter group, matched a lifeless first-half showing.

Their ineptitude might have been due to coach Markus Babbel having to field a makeshift back three through injuries and suspension. Their plight deteriorated when youngster Jordan O'Doherty was stretchered from the field after suffering a suspected ACL injury in the 14th minute.

That pain doubled not long after when Diego Castro found an unmarked Ikonomidis, who helped on a low cross under Vedran Janjetovic for the opener.

It took the Wanderers until the third minute of injury time to finally test Glory goalkeeper Liam Reddy, however Oriol Riera's header was palmed away.

The home side picked up their running in the second half and, coupled with Perth's inability to put the game away, slowly grew into the match.

The Glory only had two looks at goal compared to Western Sydney's eight in the second half, the last of which came from outside the box by Elrich.

"The first half was okay but, if we want to get a result, we have to bring more energy and more belief because football-wise, they're better than us," Babbel said. "If you want to bring quality, you have to bring mentality. And especially the second half, we show it."