Diego Castro and Neil Kilkenny put on star displays as Perth Glory ended their goal drought with a 2-0 win over Newcastle at HBF Park on Sunday.
Castro and Kilkenny combined brilliantly to set up Andy Keogh's 16th-minute opener in a game that started in 30-degree heat. And Kilkenny produced a beautiful curling effort from the edge of the box in the 47th minute to help seal the three points.
Glory entered the match under pressure to score goals after posting lacklustre 0-0 draws against Melbourne City and Adelaide United. But with Castro back in the starting line-up and firing on all cylinders, Glory looked a far more fluid and creative outfit.
"I thought he was going to get a wee bit older, but he doesn't seem to get any older," Jets coach Ernie Merrick said of 36-year-old Castro. "His ability to control the ball, change direction, find space and read the play is one of the best in the league."
The win lifted Glory four points clear of second-placed Melbourne Victory, who beat Sydney 2-1 earlier in the round. The Jets, last season's grand finalists, have just 15 points to their name, well shy of fifth-placed Adelaide and sixth-placed Wellington, who both have 26.
Glory coach Tony Popovic had made 19 changes to his starting line-up over the previous four games in a bid to rotate his players. And the trend continued against the Jets, with stars such as Andy Keogh, Castro, and Matthew Spiranovic among the five new ins.
Castro and Kilkenny played brilliant roles in Glory's opener. Kilkenny's pin-point lob over Newcastle's defence found a running Castro, who expertly trapped the ball and shaped to shoot -- before giving off a deft pass with the outside of his left boot as the goalkeeper closed. A charging Keogh did the rest, poking the ball into the back of the net to send the 11,393 crowd wild.
Castro's creativity was causing Newcastle's defence all sorts of headaches, and Glory could have easily been 3-0 up at half-time instead of 1-0.
Kilkenny scored his fourth goal of the season shortly after the break with a mesmerising curling effort. And Ivan Franjic almost made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute when his long-range shot struck the upright and bounced across the face of goal.
Chances for the Jets were few and far between, but the visitors were given a sniff in the 83rd minute when the VAR was called into action to determine whether Spiranovic committed a handball in the box.
Spiranovic's arms were tucked into his body as he spun to protect himself from a strong Ronald Vargas shot, and the VAR ruled no penalty should be awarded.
The win lifted Glory four points clear of second-placed Melbourne Victory, who beat Sydney FC 2-1 earlier in the round. The Jets, last season's grand finalists, have just 15 points to their name, well shy of fifth-placed Adelaide and sixth-placed Wellington, who both have 26.
"It was a very good performance, a dominant performance," Glory coach Tony Popovic said after the match. "The only disappointing thing is we didn't put the game away in the first half."