What a Christmas cracker of a match – a game that began at a furious speed and only picked up the pace for the following 90 minutes before ending in high drama and controversy with Melbourne City missing a second penalty in stoppage time, and with it the chance to snare a last-gasp winner.
Perth Glory goalkeeper Liam Reddy saved his second spot kick of the night in the dying minutes, denying Melbourne City skipper Bruno Fornaroli once again to preserve a point in a 3-3 draw in an exhilarating, dramatic and at times crazy game which both sides finished with 10 men following the late dismissal of Glory defender Dino Djulbic and City substitute Fernando Brandan.
Fornaroli, normally so reliable, scored twice but missed two penalties while Glory fought back to level three times.
Referee Shaun Evans played an astonishing eight minutes of stoppage time in a game packed with enough incident to last both managers the rest of the campaign. It was the sort of seasonal treat that the 11,269 fans can only have dreamed of.
The visitors should really have taken the lead in the third minute when Chris Harold somehow headed wide from close range after a lovely Diego Castro cross.
It looked as though they would pay a heavy price for that profligacy when, six minutes later, Dean Bouzanis saved Perth forward Adam Taggart’s shot and sparked a speedy City counter attack.
Nicolas Colazo’s shot was saved by Reddy, who then got a touch to Fornaroli’s follow up which went off the post for a corner.
Wild finish: Players from both sides were shown red cards in the last moments of the game. Photo: Getty Images
From the set piece Tim Cahill does what he has been doing for decades – pushing off his marker, ghosting between defenders and heading home, this time glancing in Colazo’s corner.
Bruce Kamau had an outstanding first half, teasing and tormenting Marc Warren, the Glory left back. He drove in a cross which Reddy saved, then shortly after Warren went in the book after he brought the winger down as he advanced on goal. Colazo’s free kick almost caught Reddy out, crashing to safety off the cross bar.
At this point, City looked rampant and Cahill had the ball in the net again, once more with a header, only for referee Evans to rule it out. Cahill looked to have committed no infringement so the foul occured in the build up.
But Glory was always dangerous on the break, and in the 21st minute they were level. Harold atoned for his early miss by beating Manny Muscat and then sliding a pass to Castro, who had run in from midfield unmarked. The Spaniard had time to pick his spot and finish past Bouzanis.
Main man: Diego Castro grabbed a double. Photo: Getty Images
Castro was making his first start for Glory since returning from injury, and his calm approach and vision is a key component of his team’s attacking play.
City who got their noses back in front in the 36th minute, and it was through a cool finish from Fornaroli after Kamaul and Cahill had linked well in the Glory area to provide him with the chance.
The Uruguayan should have put his side 3-1 up two minutes later when Kamau won a penalty after once again tormenting the hapless Warren. But instead of relying on placement, as he usually does, Fornaroli opted for power and struck the ball hard only to see Reddy guess the right way and save.
There was worse to come for City, as the ball was cleared out to Taggart on the Perth right, who swiftly swept forward and played a long crossfield pass to Castro. The Spaniard took a touch, made space and then fired home his second equaliser of the night – a classic illustration of how fortunes can change in this game in just a matter of seconds.
It wasn’t until just after the hour mark that there was another goal, with City taking the lead for the third time in the match.
Hero: Perth’s Liam Reddy, left, saved two penalties. Photo: Getty Images
Kamau again was upended in the penalty area by Warren and this time Fornaroli made no mistake from the spot, sending Reddy the wrong way.
But City’s defence always looks porous, especially against the pace of a player such as Harold when it pushes up and plays a high line.
And John van ‘t Schip’s side were caught out once again when Glory played a long ball through, Harold out-sped the defence and then unleashed an unstoppable rocket past Bouzanis to make it 3-3.
Kamau went close with an acrobatic effort Reddy finger tipped to safety, while Glory midfielder Nebosja Ninkovic shook the bar with a thundering late drive before the unbelievable late drama which resulted in Reddy’s second penalty save of the night.