Victory injury time winner downs Sydney

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Melbourne Victory claimed a dramatic 2-1 win in its elimination final over rivals Sydney FC thanks to an injury time winner from Gui Finkler.

With the game destined to enter extra time, the Brazilian’s goal in the first minute of injury time ensured the Victory’s season would last at least another week while ending Sydney’s in the process.

Finkler, who was largely ineffective for the Victory throughout the evening, stepped up when he was needed most to give his sides first win over Sydney for the season.

Victory were desperate to avoid an extra 30 minutes of football with this game sandwiched between two Asian Champions League matches as they now head off to Korea to take on Jeonbuk Motors.

Finkler was inexcusably left unmarked in the penalty box after being played in by a delightful Adama Traore cross for the goal.

It was largely a match that failed to live up to the hype prior to the frantic finish. Matches between these two clubs are usually lively affairs full of drama and intrigue, but this was sadly a dour affair as both sides struggled to get forward.

The home side started brighter than their opposition as they looked to dominate Sydney from the opening. Sydney looked more than happy to sit back and let Victory come to them.

Sydney’s defensive unit was strong from the start, keeping out Victory on numerous occasions. For all their possession Victory struggled to turn it into any meaningful shots on target.

That all changed in the 19th minute when Archie Thompson got free to put the Victory in front. The move started when Pablo Contreras disposed Alessandro Del Peiro and found James Troisi who then put in a delightful to pick out Thompson.

The Victory striker still had a lot to do but managed to stay composed and beat Vedran Janjetovic in the Sydney FC goal to send the parochial home side into raptures.

The goal spurred Sydney into action who immediately went on the front foot in search of an equaliser. Former Victory man Seb Ryall hit the back of the net for the third time this season against his former employees to level the scores in the 33rd minute.

An Ali Abbas through ball played in Ryall who managed to sneak a shot between the legs of Nathan Coe to bring Sydney back in the contest.

Victory finished the half strong as they seemed determined not to enter half time level. Victory couldn’t make the most of five straight corner late in the half leaving both sides to go into the sheds all locked up.

It was a serious change in momentum in the second half with Sydney dominating the last 45. Playing three games in six days appeared to take a serous toll on the hosts as they battled to stay in the contest in the face of some serious Sydney pressure.

Just like on Tuesday night against Guangzhou Evergrande, the Victory had their shot stoper Coe to thank for the result, almost single handily keeping them in the game with some world class saves.

Milos Dimitrijevic and Matt Jurman were both denied by Coe with two stunning saves. Having just won back his place between the sticks for the Victory, Coe was sensational for the home side, producing numerous high quality saves in what has arguably his best showing for the club.

Coe was outstanding against the Asian champions of Tuesday evening and produced another fine performance when his side needed it most.

Sydney had a glorious opportunity to hit the lead in the 75th minute through Ranko Despotovic that went horribly wrong. In his first game back from injury Despotovic could only push his shot wide after getting on the end of an Ali Abbas cross right in front of goal.

The miss proved costly as that proved to be Sydney’s last serious attempt on goal for the match, Finkler’s goal in the dying stages of the match made the Despotovic miss even more diabolical which Sydney into an early start to preseason.

With Victory pushing forward in search of the winner in order to avoid Extra Time, James Troisi’s attempted cross was blocked into the direction of Traore who then found Finkler to score unopposed in the box to seal a famous win.

Sydney’s defence was rock solid all evening until the divisive moment that ended their season. It appeared as though they had turned their focus onto the ensuring period of extra time, which inevitably proved to be their downfall.

Melbourne Victory manager Kevin Muscat was delighted to have avoided Extra Time given his sides challenging schedule.

“I’m not going to hide away from that fact, because an extra half-hour on top of the three games in six days would have been a big ask, but I wouldn’t have put it past the group,” Muscat said.

“Without doubt there’s a sheer determination from the players in there.

“Even at the death there, when it could have been easier to walk, there was a sheer determination to go and win a game of football. It’s a big ask, to play three games in six days, a massive ask.

“I’m pleased for many reasons, obviously the dream is still alive, but we’ve had to find a different way to win a football game tonight. I’d suggest it wasn’t a game for the purist, a game where there wasn’t much space and we had to be very switched on in transition.”

Not just witnessing a stunning finish, the crowd at Etihad Stadium also may have watched Alessandro Del Peiro’s final appearance in the A-League. Sydney FC manager Frank Farina was hopeful that won’t be the case after the match.

“He’s been fantastic for Australian football both on the field and off the field, and for Sydney, as a city and as a club, he’s been wonderful. But we’ve got to respect and see what he wants to do with his career and future.

“The football club will always move forward, irrespective of whether one player stays or goes. Nothing is built around one person or one individual. Discussions have to be had.

“I think it will be relatively quick now in terms of discussions and a decision, but that’s up to Alessandro with what he’s thinking. I think he’s most probably going to need a bit of time after this game to settle his head.”

While not the most enthralling match of football ever seen, the finish to the match made up for it to kick start this year’s finals series in spectacular fashion.

Despite your opinions on the merit of a finals series to determine the league champions, you can’t deny the excitement and intrigue an A-League finals series tosses up time and time again, tonight being no different.

Victory’s indifferent season rolls on for another installment next week while the postmortem starts on another season of underachieving at Sydney FC.

Victory will now either play Brisbane Roar or Western Sydney Wanderers away next week as they look to book an unlikely Grand Final appearance

Melbourne Victory: 1. Nathan COE(GK), 2. Pablo CONTRERAS, 3. Adama TRAORE, 4. Nick ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN(C), 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Gui FINKLER, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 14. James TROISI, 25. Jason GERIA.

Subs: 20. Lawrence THOMAS(GK), 11. Connor PAIN, 16. Rashid MAHAZI, 17 James JEGGO, 24. Scott GALLOWAY

Sydney FC: 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC(GK), 2. Seb RYALL, 5. Matt JURMAN, 6. Nikola PETKOVIC, 10. Alessandro DEL PIERO(C), 11. Richard GARCIA, 13. Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 16. Joel CHIANESE, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 21. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 22. Ali ABBAS

Subs: 1. Ivan NECEVSKI(GK), 4. Ranko DESPOTOVIC, 28. Matt THOMPSON, 29. Alex UROSEVSKI, 34. Aaron CALVER

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