Melbourne Victory extended their unbeaten run to five matches, taking a hard-fought 1-0 win over Perth Glory on Friday.
Winger Marco Rojas’ 57th-minute strike was all that separated the sides in humid conditions, with the Victory moving three points behind Adelaide United in third place, while the Glory have taken just two points from a possible 12 in their past four games.
After a sloppy start, Nick Ward came within a whisker of opening the scoring 15 minutes in when a brilliant free-kick from Steven McGarry found him in the box, but the midfielder’s header drifted agonisingly past Nathan Coe’s post.
Josh Risdon had the better of Andrew Nabbout in the early going, but 27 minutes in the youngster made a great break down the left flank and provided a wonderful ball for Rojas, whose delicate chip drifted just over the crossbar.
Rojas moved to a wide left position midway through the first and his pace and trickery were a thorn in the Glory’s side for the remainder of the match.
Gui Finkler wasted a free-kick in a good position seven minutes before the interval when his attempt sailed harmlessly over Danny Vukovic’s crossbar.
The match reached a flashpoint late in the first half when Shane Smeltz and Billy Celeski tangled, with the Victory man emerging with a bloodied face, but referee Jarred Gillett was unsighted and the Glory man escaped without penalty, much to the dismay of the home crowd.
Rojas went close early in the second half, but the Perth defence were able to scramble the ball away from his feet, and moments later he burst into the penalty area and provided a perfect cut-back to Nabbout, whose left-foot shot was inches wide of the upright.
Victory took the lead on 57 minutes.
Billy Celeski picked out Finkler in the box and the Brazilian laid the ball off for Rojas, who fired a brilliant first-time shot past Vukovic into the top right corner.
Glory substitute Chris Harold forced a diving save from Coe 68 minutes in, and he should have done better with a header from the resulting corner when he was unmarked at the back post.
Likewise, Smeltz was afforded too much space in the box three minutes later and the Glory striker wasted his header under pressure from Adrian Leijer, while Coe was at his best shortly afterwards to keep out a bullet-like header from the New Zealand international.
Harold almost pulled a brilliant equaliser out of the hat for the Glory after a sensational run and shot late on, but Coe was equal to the task with a terrific save and the Victory took all three points.