Melbourne Victory have qualified for their third A-League Grand Final after a thrilling 2-2 draw with Sydney FC. The reigning champions went straight through to the big one on aggregate (4-3) after the first leg ended 2-1 their way and the second leg finished 2-2 at Sydney Football Stadium.
Major Semi-Final second legSydney FC : 2 (Karol Kisel (p) 36', Mark Bridge 53') Melbourne Victory: 2 (Robbie Kruse 15', Archie Thompson 114') Venue:Sydney Football Stadium, SydneyCrowd: 23,818 Yellow cards:Syd - Karol Kisel 20', Hayden Foxe 120' MV - Robbie Kruse 60', Surat Sukha 65' Milestones:Sydney FC midfielder Stuart Musialik (100th A-League game) Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat (100th A-League game)
After a cagey start, the Victory took the lead when Robbie Kruse scored a spectacular goal from 25 yards, turning away from his defender then raking the ball back over the top of Clint Bolton and into the top corner to give his side a 3-1 lead on aggregate.
Sydney decided to start pushing forward after Kruse's goal but the Victory defence were organised and prepared for any onslaught but it was the visitors who had the next best chance with Carlos Hernandez hitting a bouncing volley that Bolton got a hand to and pushed it away to safety.
The Sky Blues were enjoying a high percentage of possession in the opening half hour and it came to fruition when Alex Brosque was awarded a penalty after Adrian Leijer made contact with him in the area.
Slovakian midfielder Karol Kisel stepped up to the spot and put his shot to Mitch Langerak's right and into the back of the net to make it 1-1 on the day and 3-2 on aggregate.
Eight minutes after the break, the Sky Blues took the lead on the day and tied up the aggregate when Kisel received the ball at the back post before cutting it back to Mark Bridge, who had not scored since November, and the striker finished with aplomb from just inside the penalty box to send the Sydney Football Stadium into raptures.
The match continued to pulsate with both sides searching for a winner and the Victory almost created one of the best team goals of the season when Tom Pondeljak back heeled into the path of Archie Thompson who did likewise to Grant Brebner but the Scottish midfielder's shot was wayward, keeping Sydney in the contest.
With 11 minutes remaining, Sydney defender Sung Hwan-Byun tried his luck from long range and the swerving shot was good enough to worry Langerak but not good enough to do more than whistler past the post and into the crowd.
The final five minutes was a nervous slot for both sides and it began when Sydney midfielder Terry McFlynn gave the ball up in the centre of the pitch. The ball found its way to Thompson who was on-side and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the A-League's all-time leading goalscorer would tuck it away but Bolton advanced and made a brilliant save to send the match into extra time.
The first half of extra time was not as lively as the full 90 minutes but the second 15 minutes began with some drama when Bolton came to the fore yet again by blocking shots from Victory's Costa Rican duo Hernandez and Marvin Angulo to rack up his sixth and seventh saves for the evening.
With six minutes remaining, the Victory booked their place in a third Grand Final when skipper Kevin Muscat took a quick free-kick which Thompson got on the end of and tucked behind Bolton to make it 2-2 on the night and 4-3 to the visitors on aggregate which is enough to put them through to a home final at Etihad Stadium in two weeks time.
Syd Clint Bolton (gk), Seb Ryall (90+4'), Stephan Keller, Simon Colosimo, Karol Kisel, Stuart Musialik, John Aloisi (c), Alex Brosque (112'), Terry McFlynn (118'), Mark Bridge, Sung Hwan-Byun
Subs:Ivan Necevski (gk), Hayden Foxe (90+4'), Brendan Gan (118'), Antony Golec, Chris Payne (112')
MV Mitch Langerak (gk), Kevin Muscat (c), Surat Sukha (79'), Leigh Broxham, Grant Brebner, Rodrigo Vargas, Tom Pondeljak, Carlos Hernandez, Robbie Kruse (65'), Nick Ward (68'), Adrian Leijer
Subs: Glen Moss (gk), Archie Thompson (65'), Marvin Angulo (79'), Matthew Foschini, Evan Berger (68')