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Soccer: Chianese strike sends Perth into A-League semi-finals

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A classy goal from Joel Chianese sent Perth Glory into an A-League semi-final against defending champions Sydney FC after a 1-0 elimination final victory over Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

Chianese struck in the 18th minute at Western Sydney Stadium and the goal proved sufficient to upset the third-ranked New Zealanders and set up a rematch of last year’s championship final at the same venue on Wednesday.

“It’s awesome,” said forward Chianese, who was recalled to the starting side for the match.

“We didn’t have the best run-in and we knew we had to be up for this big one. It’s about stepping up when the moment’s there.”

A match between the league’s two most geographically distant clubs would usually involve a journey of more than 5,000 km for one side but both teams have been in Sydney for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps understandably, the form of the exiled clubs since the resumption of the season had been patchy with Phoenix winless in four games and Glory losing four of five to finish sixth in the final standings.

Phoenix had the better of the early exchanges but it was the Western Australians who came closest to opening the scoring in the 14th minute when Bruno Fornaroli’s point blank header was tipped onto the bar by Stefan Marinovic.

The Phoenix keeper had no chance four minutes later, though, when Chianese latched onto a through ball from Jake Brimmer and took one touch with his right foot before burying it in the bottom corner of the net with his left.

Perth goalkeeper Liam Reddy kept his former club at bay for the rest of the first half with two saves from Mexican Ulises Davila.

Phoenix continued to enjoy the majority of possession at the start of the second half but it was not until the 70th minute that Josh Sotirio got their first shot on target, which Reddy parried away.

Winger Sotirio had a better chance to equalise five minutes later when Callum McCowatt got to the byline and cut the ball back only for the winger to miss the target completely from six metres out.

There were a few more scares as Phoenix pushed forward in search of a goal but Reddy and his defence did enough for a ninth clean sheet of the season to secure the victory.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Lincoln Feast.