Perth SC claimed the U20s McInerney Ford Top Four Cup in a thrilling come from behind victory over Cockburn City at Finance 365 Stadium on Saturday.
Goals to Losene Dulleh and James Oldfield had given Cockburn a commanding 2-0 lead at halftime, but Ali Nazari and Luke Garas were on target for Perth early in the second half and that was enough to send the match to penalties.
Young winger Nazari took the fifth and decisive spot kick for Perth, sending their travelling support into raptures and ensuring his side took home their second major trophy of the season.
Nazari said the nerves of stepping up to the penalty spot quickly diminished.
“I had fear, I had everything going through my mind but I knew what I was doing,” he said.
“I chose a spot and I went for it.
“It feels great to win after coming back from 2-0. It was such a great second half for us, and I’m just so proud of the boys.”
The match looked to be an even contest from the outset, with both sides creating a number of half chances early on.
It was Cockburn, who finished the regular season seven points behind league champions Perth, who opened the scoring in the 25th minute.
Ryan Pratt darted down the left and beat his man, before playing it in from the touchline for Dulleh to turn home from close range.
Perth responded immediately and nearly equalised when Matthew Cherrie’s low curling effort from the edge of the area went narrowly wide.
Despite Perth’s attacking efforts, the Cockerels doubled their lead six minutes later, when Oldfield headed home powerfully from a corner.
Ryan Pratt nearly made it 3-0 on the stroke of half time when he found himself one-on-one with Malek Kuc, but the Perth custodian came off his line and did well to save Pratt’s powerful shot.
Perth showed promising signs of a comeback when play resumed, and pulled one back in the 49th minute through Nazari.
Nazari received a well-weighted through ball down the left and cut into the box, before firing past Ryan Barker at his near post to put his side back in the contest.
The Azzurri resurgence continued, and they got their well-deserved equaliser on the hour mark through Luke Garas.
After getting on the end of a lobbed ball over the Cockburn defence, Garas surged forward and expertly chipped Barker who had come off his line.
The remaining half hour saw both sides press hard to snatch a winner, with Cockburn coming closest deep into injury time.
Pratt got on the end of a cross in from the right, and his glancing header was goal bound until the outstretched hand of Kuc ensured the match went to penalties.
The penalty shootout proved to be largely even until Ryan Sardi fired into the crossbar for Cockburn, handing the advantage to Perth. Nazari stepped up for the decisive spot kick and buried it to devastate the Cockerels.
Cockburn coach Joe Pereira felt his side didn’t listen when they were addressed in the change rooms at halftime.
“We knew they were going to come out firing, we had a game plan to combat it but we didn’t follow it through,” he said.
“When it goes to penalties there is a little bit of luck involved. The boys are a little bit upset, but that is the way it goes.”