Ikonomidis unlocks Victory and puts Glory on path to Premiers Plate
The odd eyebrow was raised when Perth Glory named Andy Keogh on the bench for the biggest game of their season to date.
Though on target in last weekend's 3-0 win over Wellington Phoenix, former captain Keogh had to settle for a place among the substitutes against Melbourne Victory on Sunday as Tony Popovic opted for a fluid front three of Joel Chianese, Diego Castro and Chris Ikonomidis.
His decision was handsomely rewarded.
Glory, albeit without truly threatening Lawrence Thomas, established a sense calm and control in the first half at a packed AAMI Park that allowed their rejigged attack to grow into the game.
The pressure which eventually broke the hosts came after the interval and it was Ikonomidis, as it so often has been in this fine season for player and team, who lit the fuse on a game-changing 10-minute period.
While not directly involved in Neil Kilkenny's spot-kick opener, the 23-year-old Caltex Socceroo had heralded the game's changing dynamic by forcing a sharp save from Lawrence Thomas moments earlier.
Then, just eight minutes after the deadlock was broken, the influential forward outfoxed Thomas Deng on the left, steadied over a bouncing ball in the box and supplied a fine left-footed cross for skipper Castro to volley home.
The Spanish star justifiably earned widespread plaudits for his contortionist act in finishing the chance but it was his young team-mate's grit and guile in the lead-up - along with the series of shots and probing passes in the minutes prior - that put Perth firmly on course for a potentially season-defining result.
Glory are now seven points clear in first and, courtesy of Ikonomidis' positional intelligence, know an attacking unit without a traditional centre-forward can still flourish in the kind of environment they will encounter in the Finals Series.