Melbourne Victory moved into the Liberty A-League Preliminary Final with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Adelaide United on Sunday.
Victory is a win away from the Grand Final after Melina Ayres scored a 57th-minute winner in the Semi Final at Coopers Stadium.
Lia Privitelli’s opener had been cancelled out by Nanako Sasaki in the first half, but Victory found a winner to move into a Melbourne Derby Preliminary Final against City next week.
Victory controlled early possession, but needed a good save from Casey Dumont in the 10th minute.
A cross from the left fell to Dylan Holmes at the back post, but Dumont smothered at her feet to keep the game goalless.
Victory was starting to create its own chances, with Privitelli heading a Polly Doran cross onto the roof of the net and Courtney Nevin lifting a free-kick over from range.
The visitor had an excellent opportunity to open the scoring in the 20th minute, but Adelaide goalkeeper Annalee Grove made a strong save from Ayres’ powerful effort from inside the area.
Victory took a deserved lead just before the half-hour mark through Privitelli.
Zimmerman played a one-two with Alex Chidiac before crossing beautifully to the back post, where Privitelli finished clinically past Grove.
But Adelaide responded almost immediately, Sasaki scoring with a long-range free-kick.
The encounter settled again after the goals as the teams went into the break level.
Victory made a decent start to the second half and restored its lead through Ayres in the 57th minute.
Ayres played a pass out wide to Privitelli, whose cross found the forward to volley in brilliantly for her 15th Liberty A-League goal for Victory.
Only Natasha Dowie (34) has scored more Liberty A-League goals for Victory.
Privitelli almost added a third for Victory, which continued to look dangerous in attack, but was denied by Grove.
While Adelaide chased an equaliser, Victory looked mostly comfortable in the closing stages to win the Semi Final.
What they said – Chidiac
“Exhausted, but I’m so happy. I couldn’t be prouder of the team today. We’ve had such a rough season with the games every three days, but I’m so proud of the girls for getting through today.”
“We knew the feeling when we lost 3-0 a couple of weeks ago to them, we didn’t want to feel that again. We had a lot of chats about it as a team and today we just came together, we gave everything and left it all out there on the park.”
Player in focus
Privitelli produced one of her best performances of the season. The Victory captain scored the opener and set up Ayres’ winner.
Victory is a win away from a second straight Grand Final appearance against Sydney FC, with City awaiting in a Derby next week.
Liberty A-League 2021/22 Semi Final
Adelaide United 1 (Nanako Sasaki 32′)
Melbourne Victory 2 (Lia Privitelli 29′, Melina Ayres 57′)
Adelaide United: Grove (gk); Isabel Hodgson (c), McNamara, Sharples, Emily Hodgson (Mullan 89′); Sasaki, Holmes; Dawber, Omiya (Stanbury 82′), Worts; Condon (Evans 60′).
Melbourne Victory: Dumont (gk); Doran, Bunge, Hendrix, Nevin; Jackson (Murphy 81′), Eliadis; Privitelli (c) (Markovski 89′), Chidiac, Zimmerman; Ayres (Withers 68′).
Yellow cards: Nevin 32′, Jackson 40′, Holmes 46′
Red cards: Nil
Venue: Coopers Stadium
Victory will face City at AAMI Park in the Preliminary Final on Sunday, March 20.