A-League wrap: Glory book finals berth
By Football News
Perth Glory have secured a spot in the A-League finals with a 1-1 draw against Adelaide United despite a nervous finish at nib Stadium.
Glory took a deserved lead through Adrian Zahra early in the second half of their home match on Saturday, but Jake Barker-Daish's stoppage-time equaliser gave Adelaide a sniff of victory in the closing minutes, which would have cost Perth a spot in the finals.
Perth went into Saturday's match knowing a draw would be enough to see them leapfrog Sydney FC into sixth position on the A-League ladder and take the last available berth in the competition's finals format.
In the Glory's first game at a fully-renovated nib Stadium, over 16,000 fans turned up in the hope of cheering last year's losing grand finalists into their third finals campaign in four seasons.
Perth had the best chance of the opening half with Ryo Nagai winning a penalty after being pushed over by Cam Watson in the box but the Japanese winger nervously scuffed his spot kick on to the post.
Following a scoreless first half, the home side started full of purpose early in the second period, with Zahra missing a fine opportunity in the 53rd minute after controlling Dean Heffernan's cross in the box and swivelling to send his shot just wide.
But the 22-year-old winger made no mistake five minutes later when he tapped Steven McGarry's cross into the net from close range.
Despite having less possession, Perth had more attempts on goal with 12 shots, including four on target, compared to Adelaide (eight shots, four on target).
The Reds gained the ascendency late in the match, however, before Barker-Daish broke through for the visitors in the 91st minute, smashing home from the top of the box after Perth's defence failed to clear the ball.
Adelaide could have almost stolen the points and handed finals football to Sydney in the final minute but Dario Vidosic's on-target free-kick was palmed away by Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
The result sees Perth move above Sydney due to their superior goal difference.
In Saturday's other A-League fixture, Central Coast Mariners ensured Melbourne Heart finished the season without a win outside Victoria, as Graham Arnold's team triumphed 2-1.
Heart had central defender Patrick Gerhardt sent off in the 34th minute when he used his hand to stop a goal-bound strike from Mile Sterjovski and Daniel McBreen drilled the penalty safely into the net for his 17th strike of the season.
Substitute Mitchell Duke doubled the Mariners' lead just after the hour mark before Richard Garcia got one back for Heart in the 73rd minute, but the visitors were unable to avoid their ninth consecutive away defeat.