MELBOURNE VICTORY 2 (Thompson 19', Finkler 91') def SYDNEY FC 1 (Ryall 33')
VICTORY: Nathan Coe; Adam Traore, Pablo Contreras, Nick Ansell, Jason Geria (Scott Galloway 67'); Mark Milligan (c), Leigh Broxham (Rashid Mahazi 79'); James Troisi, Gui Finkler (Connor Pain 94'); Kosta Barbarouses, Archie Thompson. Subs: Lawrence Thomas, Jimmy Jeggo. SYDNEY: Vedran Janjetovi; Seb Ryall, Nikola Petkovic, Sasa Ognenovski, Andrew Jurman; Milos Dimitrijevic, Terry Antonis, Alessandro Del Piero (c), Ali Abbas; Joel Chianese (Ranko Despotovic 70'), Richard Garcia. Subs: Ivan Necevski, Aaron Calver, Matt Thompson, Alex Urosevski.
YELLOW CARDS VICTORY: Contreras 53', Ansell 75'.
REFEREE: Peter Green
CROWD: 20,802 at Etihad Stadium
Michael Lynch reports: Melbourne Victory kept its season alive for another week and condemned Sydney to finals defeat in the most dramatic fashion with a stoppage time volley from Brazilian Gui Finkler, whose goal gave the hosts a 2-1 win on Friday.
Both sides were preparing for extra time and a potential penalty shoot out when the excellent James Troisi summoned the energy for a last gasp burst into the Sydney penalty area. His cross was blocked, but the ball fell to Adama Traore, whose chipped pass into the penalty area was met perfectly by Finkler to shatter the Sky Blues finals dreams in the 91st minute. It was a suitably thrilling conclusion to an exciting contest in which both sides, at different times, had looked the more likely victors.
And Jesse Hogan reports on Archie Thompson and how there's life in the old dog yet
Man of the moment ... Guilherme Finkler after his winning goal after 91 minutes. Photo: Getty Images
Have to say the post-match boos from the Melbourne crowd in the direction of Del Piero were really out of place. For mine anyway. Have to agree with this sentiment:
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Victory 2 Sydney FC 1
Victory goes through after a late goal. That was a classic finals contest. Gripping. Draining. Pulsating. Choose your own adjective. The late winner was a chance that, in all truth, needed to be converted ... but it still needs someone to step up and ensure it happens. Take a bow, Mr Finkler.
GOAL!!!! Victory scores in added time! Gui Finkler was the man .... They had been peppering the goals with the seconds counting down and Finkler successfully converted his volley chance just outside the six-yard box. The ball was ideally crossed after an earlier shot on goal was deflected. Super Sub Finkler found the gap between the post and the keeper's outstretched arm. What a stunning finish. The home crowd is in raptures.
YELLOW CARD .... Victory skipper Mark Milligan is shown the card after a reckless nudge in the back on his man .... He really doesn't need that hanging over his head, does he? The referee got it right.
81 MINS: Melbourne Victory 1 Sydney FC 1
Tensions are rising. I'm return to my half-time prediction where I confidently predicted this match would go into extra time. Nothing that has unfolded over the previous 35 minutes has given me reason to question my premonition.
Money time now for both teams. We're about to tick past 80 minutes and it's 1-1 in this sudden-death final. Victory has gone to its bench just once. And Del Piero's ageing legs are still out there for the Sky Blues.
74 MINS: Ohhhh, what a cracking chance for the Sky Blues. It happened so quickly there was little chance for the Victory defence to respond.
Yes, the Victory stopper has been superb ....
The crowd figure is in: 20,802 fans have made it to Melbourne's Etihad Stadium this evening.
Kevin Muscat goes to his bench after 64 minutes ...
ON: Scott Galloway
OFF: Jason Geria
Tension is building after 15 minutes of the second half. Every error from this point on counts for so much more. Sky Blues have had the better of the play since the break and Del Piero has been outstanding. His class is starting to shine through.
53 MINS: Ohhhhhh, what a close chance ... Another invaluable stop from Victory's Nathan Coe. He got fingertips on the ball and deflected it just across the top of the bar. So, so close to a 2-1 lead to the visitors.
People say a 6 team finals rewards mediocrity, if Jurman scores a winner it may be worse than they thought #ALeagueFinals — Zachary King (@kingzac) April 18, 2014
46 MINS: So, we're away in the second half and it barely took a minute for the first legitimate chance. Victory keeper Nathan Coe superbly parried away an accurate header on goal ... naturally he then berated his teammates for their lack of defence.
ANALYSIS: Extra time is odds on for this match. Yep, I'm prepared to say that at the main break. It already has that feeling about it. Little surprise that Sydney was able to cancel out Thompson's 18th minute goal so capably. Victory has clearly looked more threatening but as well all know with this game ... converted chances are the ones that count. The creative Victory forward has been outstanding and looms as a constant danger just outside the box. Pablo Contreras has been impressive, too.
45 MINS: The half time whistle is blown. A compelling period of football that seemed to rise in intrigue by the minute. Victory has the majority of good chances (usually through impressive build up) but only managed to put one ball into the back of the net. Sydney's equaliser was unexpected was equally clinical.
There may be some truth in this:
Seb Ryall is the Victory's kryptonite. #aleaguefinals— Patrick Barnes (@patrick478) April 18, 2014
Sydney's equaliser has sparked Victory into action. They continue to surge forward and have something like four penalties in a matter of minutes. The tempo in this match has risen sharply. There's about five minutes until the break and a real feeling that another goal is on the cards ....
GOAL!!! 33 MINS: The equaliser. Sebastian Ryall levels up proceedings with a clinical finish. He was well in the box and only needed half a look at the crossed pass from the left flank. One touch and the ball was into the net. Great reply from the Sky Blues.
30 MINS: Victory's goals hasn't changed the complexion of the match much. Both outfits are continuing to employ a slightly standoff-ish style of play. At this rate Archie is the best player on the park. Ever dangerous.
GOAL!!!! 18 mins: Victory get the all-important opener. Archie Thompson does the finishing by scoring the goal but it was Contreras who set up the chance with a terrific steal on the halfway line. The winger took the ball forward and it was a patient Archie who awaited his chance. After a series of passes the ball was dished to Thompson near the top of the box and he expertly curled the ball into the right hand side of the net. Naturally, the crowd erupted.
11 mins: Melbourne Victory 0 Sydney FC 0
A somewhat perdictable opening overall. Both squads testing each other out. Victory has looked more threatening and slightly more creative. Archie on the park makes a huge difference.
Orright. Cheering for Del Piero. Be nice to see him achieve something in the game before he retires. #MVCvSYD #toiletseat — Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) April 18, 2014
6 mins: The Melbourne outfit is dominating the early minutes. One forward foray after another. Archie Thompson is prominent and his ever-present threat to defenders is clear.
2 mins: An early moment for the highlight reel and the replays. Victory in their forward half creates a golden chance through a sublime pass from Thompson but his teammate is off-side ... only marginally.
Kick-off is inching ever closer and the crowd is slowing filling out. Surely we won't go past 20,000 though. Those fans that are here, however, are full of voice. There's a pocket of Sydney fans at the northern end with large Sky Blues flags.
Does anyone want to venture what the crowd figure will be tonight? Just 20 minutes or so from kick-off, the stands at Etihad Stadium are sparsely populated. At this point a crowd of 25,000 would be an excellent return.
Sydney FC fans are out in numbers. Photo: Getty Images
Of course the Sky Blues boast an unbeaten record against Melbourne this A-League season. What will that mean tonight in a sudden-death final? Diddly squat? Certainly the pressure is riding on Sydney to get the job done.
The players tunnel here at @EtihadStadiumAU for @GoMVFC v @SydneyFC #ALeagueFinals pic.twitter.com/D1yG09WJRX — Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) April 18, 2014
On the bench for Sydney FC are Ranko Despotovic, Matthew Thompson, Alex Urosevski, Aaron Calver and reserve goalkeeper Ivan Necevski.
So, Archie Thompson is in Victory's starting 11. Doesn't he have a remarkable background in big A-League matches? Melbourne's substitutes are Connor Pain, Rashi Mahazi, James Jeggo, Scott Galloway and reserve 'keeper Lawrence Thomas.
The big round-ball issues are discussed ....
Man City giving Melbourne Heart the blues?
What is the price of being showered in petro-dollars? The answer for Melbourne Heart seems to be the colour of their strip. Their fans and Sydney FC are not impressed.PT7M40S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36rry 620 349 April 16, 2014
Tonight's teamsheets #ALeagueFinals pic.twitter.com/FJ783aejsU — Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) April 18, 2014
Must admit it's a bit of a strange feeling in Melbourne for a Good Friday. Sports fans in the south are so accustomed to a lack of live sport in their fair city ... so the existence of a cut-throat A-League final between two of the league's glamour clubs makes for a new Easter experience.
And a little bit of community service ....
We've got extra services for the Victory & Sydney fans heading home from Etihad tonight. Full details here: http://t.co/7RlUB1aOPr— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) April 18, 2014
Last time: Melbourne Victory‘s push for a top-two spot and the double chance is likely to go to the final kick of the A-League season. Likewise Sydney’s battle to secure a spot in the finals after the teams finished with a goal apiece in an entertaining contest in front of 20,447 fans at AAMI Park on Saturday night. The 1-1 draw means that Victory slips to fourth spot with 37 points, two less than Central Coast Mariners and one behind Western Sydney Wanderers.
Read more of Michael Lynch's report.
Alessandro Del Piero of Sydney and Adrian Leijer of the Victory contest the ball during the round 25 match at AAMI Park on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images
Dominic Bossi has nominated his five players to watch for this sudden-death match: 1. James Troisi (Victory), 2. Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), 3. Mark Milligan (Victory), 4. Richard Garcia (Sydney FC) and 5. Gui Finkler (Victory). Read more key details about the match in his Lowdown column.