Smeltz fires Perth to glory
Shane Smeltz was the hero once more for Perth with a second half hat-trick that earned Glory a 3-0 win over Melbourne Heart in Sunday's Hyundai A-League elimination final at nib Stadium.
Perth's first finals win in the A-League era set up a home minor semi-final clash against Wellington next weekend - the winner of which will advance to the preliminary final the following week - while ending the Heart's hopes of an unlikely championship tilt.
Just one week after Smeltz netted four times in the Glory's home win against the Victory, the marquee striker was again on fire with goals in the 65th, 72nd and 92nd minutes getting the hosts across the line in the scrappy affair in front of 12,600 fans.
Smeltz's unbelievable effort gave him 16 goals in his first season for the club, but more importantly ended the club's eight-year run without a finals win which dated back to the last year of the NSL.
Victory also ensured the Glory will play in the Asian Champions League for the first time if Australia retains its 2.5 places in the tournament.
It was a heartbreaking way for Heart coach John van 't Schip's reign to come to an end, with the Melbourne side lacklustre in their first A-League final.
The Heart seldom tested Perth goalkeeper Danny Vukovic and struggled to maintain possession for much of the contest before finally succumbing when the hosts lifted a notch late in the game.
Neither side pulled any selection surprises, with Brendan Hamill taking Simon Colosimo's place in the middle of the Heart's defence and Perth stars Bas van den Brink, Liam Miller and Jacob Burns all returning from injury, but the near full-strength Glory side had difficulties creating chances early.
After the Glory wasted a free-kick from the edge of the box in the 27th minute, the Heart raced up the other end with numbers on the counter attack but Eli Babalj's attempted square-up was excellently intercepted by Dean Heffernan.
Melbourne re-shuffled at half-time with Rutger Worm replacing the ineffective Matt Thompson but that didn't have the desired affect and Perth finally broke the deadlock in scrappy circumstances just after the hour mark.
Josh Risdon's ball in was partially cleared but Burns headed it back in and it took a deflection on its way through to Smeltz - played onside by some sloppy Heart defending - and the New Zealand international calmly slotted the ball past Clint Bolton.
And the game was all but wrapped up five minutes later when Smeltz headed an Andrezinho cross back across goal and off the upright before the assistant referee ruled the ball had crossed the line to end any hope for Melbourne.
But Smeltz wasn't done and he capped off a master-class by beating the offside trap in stoppage time and finishing for his second hat-trick in eight days.
Perth Glory 3 (Smeltz '65, '72, '92)
Melbourne Heart 0
Crowd: 12,600 at nib Stadium