Fowler hat-trick sinks Victory

Melbourne Victory’s poor away form continued with a 3-1 defeat against the out-of-form Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Sunday night.

Melbourne Victory’s poor away form continued with a 3-1 defeat against the out-of-form Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Sunday night.

The Victory’s trip to west coincided with the Glory’s, and Robbie Fowler’s, return to form as the former Liverpool legend bagged a hat-trick.

A late Mate Dugandzic goal was the visitors’ only solace on a typically warm Perth afternoon.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick made two changes to his starting team with Marvin Angulo, making just his second starting appearance of the season, and Dugandzic dropped to the bench.

Archie Thompson also lined up with the legendary Victory striker making his long-awaited first start since his serious knee injury in last season’s Grand Final.

Thompson came in for Robbie Kruse who was absent with a quadricep injury suffered in last week’s home loss against Gold Coast United.

The Victory went into the match with just two wins from eight on their trips to Western Australia and were also seeking to overcome a recent poor away form, having not won on any of their previous five road trips.

The Glory started with an intensity rarely seen in recent months and Fowler immediately drew a smart save from onrushing Victory goalkeeper Michael Petkovic.

Within minutes Thompson, undoubtedly hungry to make up for lost time out of the game, cut in from the left only to see his close-range blast blocked by Glory custodian Tando Velaphi.

Any thoughts of a positive beginning for Merrick’s charges were dashed when Rodrigo Vargas was adjudged to have brought down Robbie Fowler as he burst into the penalty area.

Fowler’s weakly hit spot-kick was parried by Petkovic but the rebound fell kindly for the Glory marquee man who netted just his third of the season. The goal was the first at home for the Glory in four home matches.

The visitors started to come back into the match as the first half progressed and Angulo looked set to make a rare appearance on the scoresheet just past the half hour.

The Costa Rican drilled his shot from the edge of the penalty area but Velaphi pulled off a stunning diving save in what was a pivotal moment in the match.

Angulo then forced Velaphi into action again moments later after being released by Hernandez but his angled shot was well saved.

There was still time for Petkovic to show his abilities in front of his former hometown crowd denying Scott Neville after the Glory wide man had collected the ball on the right and cut inside Kevin Muscat.

Despite the weight of chances favouring the home side it was the Victory who dominated possession statistics come the half-time interval.

Leigh Broxham was brought on at the break in place of Tom Pondeljak but again it was the home side that were faster out of the blocks. Petkovic was almost immediately forced to make a smart save tumbling to his right to block a Fowler header.

Nine minutes into the second half Fowler both doubled his, and the Glory’s, tally as a ball from the right was smartly tucked inside Petkovic’s near post from 15 metres.

The Victory attempted to respond immediately with Hernandez firing a trademark dipping free-kick narrowly over the crossbar.

The hammer blow was delivered on 61 minutes as Fowler was again allowed far too much latitude and he scored with a cool finish past an exposed Petkovic.

Dugandzic entered the fray with 20 minutes remaining replacing Thompson, who remains on 49 Hyundai A-League goals.

Still Petkovic remained by far the busier of the two goalkeepers and the veteran shotstopper finger-tipped Neville’s drive over the bar as the Glory threatened to run riot.

The Victory made a rare foray forward via a driving Dugandzic run but his spectacular drive flew narrowly wide. Hernandez then let fly from similar distance just moments later but again the end result was the same, albeit by the slimmest of margins.

Melbourne finally got on the scoresheet with Angulo setting up the chance and Diogo Ferreira squaring the ball for an easy close range finish by Dugandzic as the two substitutes combined.

The Victory now have just four days to refocus ahead of a tough home outing against the combative Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Thursday.

Perth Glory 3 (Robbie Fowler 13′ pen, 54′, 61′)
Melbourne Victory 1 (Mate Dugandzic 80′)