Perth Glory's fluid attack exploits lopsided Melbourne Victory

The versatility of the visitor's forward half was a big factor in their win

Following an entertaining W-League semi-final clash between Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory -- where a Samantha Kerr hat-trick completed in extra time took the Glory to the finals -- the same A-League sides met for a top of the table battle.

A controversial penalty finished by Neil Kilkenny as well as a quality kung-fu strike by Diego Castro helped the Glory navigate through their biggest contenders for the Premiers' Plate.

It now puts manager Tony Popovic's Glory in prime position for first place, with a seven-point gap between them and Victory.

Additionally, the performance from the Western Australians was another statement that they are the competition's best team - after their comprehensive 3-0 win against Wellington Phoenix last weekend.

Victory, meanwhile, will be disappointed with the loss, but they will still be fighting to retain their second place spot as well as threatening the Glory if they do slip up.

The spirited display from the Victory in the last 20 minutes of the match will give head coach Kevin Muscat enough confidence that there is not that big a gap between the two sides.

Here are three tactical observations from Goal’s A-League match of the week.

Risk-free first half

Perth Glory Melbourne Victory formation

The first half was a dull affair ending scoreless with neither team really testing the keeper. Both managers seemed to be testing each other to see who would blink first.

But with players like Glory captain Diego Castro, Socceroos starlet Chris Ikonomidis, Victory's own Elvis Kamsoba and James Troisi, you'd expect a lot more excitement on both ends of the pitch.

The main reason for the low number of memorable opportunities was that both teams were more afraid of conceding than scoring.

The attacking was left to the front three of both teams while the rest of the team played conservatively in case of a counter attack.

This made it hard for either team to create chances as they were always outnumbered against the opposing team's defences, although Glory did make inroads with the width provided by Davidson and Franjic on occasion. 

The conservative first half played by both teams emphasised how much the game meant for both teams.

For Glory, it was a chance to make their lead in the table even bigger, while Victory wanted to reduce the gap to only one. It made for a bit of a boring half, but it's understandable given the importance of the match-up.

Perth Glory's fluid front three

Chris Ikonomidis Perth Glory

Popovic made the big decision to leave his main striker Andy Keogh, who's scored 10 goals so far this season, on the bench in favour of a fluid front three involving Joel Chianese, Castro and Ikonomidis.

All three played in every attacking position throughout the match. Castro started on the right side before moving into a striker and then had a shift on the left wing as well, with the other two players switching to whichever role was left empty.

This fluid front three made it difficult for Victory's defenders to mark their man because if they follow them too far, they could be caught out of position.

This is exactly how the second Glory goal came about as Broxham was too far into the midfield to cover Jason Davidson only for the Glory left-back's header to put Ikonomodis through, where he squared up Castro who at the time was playing as the striker.

The versatility of the three Perth forwards was a large reason for them to be able to pull off such complex roles. It takes an intelligent player to read the game situation and move to the position where they're going to make the biggest impact.

The pace and skill of the front three also meant that they were always prepared to counter-attack. This never really came to fruition because Perth had most of the possession, but it is another reason for Popovic employing a fluid front three rather than the less mobile Keogh in this match.

Victory fail to exploit the left flank

James Troisi Melbourne Victory

While Popovic found success with his attacking plan, his counterpart couldn't find any reason for joy with his own blueprint to topple the leaders of the A-League.

Victory very clearly identified the left side of the field as Glory's weak point as Troisi regularly drifted into the channel with Kamsoba further ahead. Even more interesting was that Glory defenders were not stressed when either of them had the ball and didn't pressure them until they were in threatening positions.

Troisi, especially, had plenty of time on the ball on numerous occasions but lacked precision with his passes in the final third.

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The focus down the left-hand side of Melbourne Victory meant that both Kenny Athiu and Kosta Barbarouses played closer to the left-hand side, almost like a lop-sided 4-3-3. Although they got in behind the defence a few times, they weren't in a dangerous enough position to make it count.

It's telling also, that Victory's goal that gave some hope that they could take something from the match, came from the right channel rather than the side that was the main area that Melbourne targeted.

Shabab Hossain is an up-and-coming young football journalist. You can view his blog here.