Melbourne Victory’s resurgent A-League Men season came to a heartbreaking end on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Victory entered the second Semi-Final leg against Western United with a 1-0 advantage but were overrun by a second-half flurry from the visitors.
Both teams were welcomed onto a roaring AAMI Park by an energetic crowd to start proceedings, setting up a dramatic evening of football.
Jake Brimmer looked the man most likely to penetrate the Western defence early and nearly created a quick goal for Nick D’Agostino with a lovely through ball in the 12th minute.
Six minutes later, Aleksandar Prijovic headed home a goal from transition to level the aggregate score at 1-1 and put Victory on the back foot.
The next period belonged to the men in navy blue, however, as repeated forays forward heaped pressure on Western’s defence and eventually found the breakthrough through that man Brimmer again.
Standing over a free kick in the 37th minute, Brimmer found the top right corner with a gorgeous curling strike, sending the crowd into raptures.
The stunning hit made it four consecutive matches with a goal for the rising midfield talent.
With the aggregate scoreline reading 2-1 Victory’s way heading into the sheds, a spot in the Grand Final was still well and truly up for grabs.
But it was all Western coming out of the main break as Prijovic scored his second goal of the contest, again finishing a cross from transition to level the tie once more.
At a 2-2 aggregate, the free-flowing match tightened into a tense affair, neither side willing to give an inch as the minutes ticked down.
Rai Marchan and Nick D’Agostino’s long attempts found the target in the 62nd minute but were both parried by Jamie Young in goals.
Western found the breakthrough in the 78th minute through Lachie Wales, whose deflected shot gave the visitors their first lead of the two-leg tie.
Jake Brimmer nearly proved hero again in the 82nd minute when his free kick attempt was saved as Victory desperately looked for an equaliser.
They came closest with two minutes to spare in the 90’ when substitute Francesco Margiotta’s right-foot shot struck the upright as the stadium held its breath.
Victory’s efforts ultimately came to no avail, with Wenzel-Halls scoring from a counter-attack deep into injury time to seal the result for Western.
The loss wrapped up an eventful season for Victory, winning the FFA Cup, qualifying for the Asian Champions League play-offs, and finishing second on the A-League Men table before bowing out in the Semi-Final stage.
Player in focus
Jake Brimmer put in two amazing shifts over the Semi-Final legs to wrap up what was a brilliant season from the attacking midfielder.
Brimmer scored in both legs and created many chances for his teammates in a coming-of-age showing for the 24-year-old.
Isuzu UTE A-League 2021/22 Semi-Final Leg Two
Melbourne Victory: 1 (Brimmer 37’)
Western United: 4 (Prijovic 18′ 49′, Wales 78′, Wenzel-Halls 90+9′)
Western United XI: Young, Risdon, Imai, Lacroix, Garuccio, Wales, Skotadis, Kilkenny, Pain, Wenzel-Halls, Prijovic
Melbourne Victory XI: Kelava, Geria, Spiranovic, Miranda, Davidson, Marchan, Brillante, Brimmer, Folami, D’Agostino, Rojas
Yellow cards: Kilkenny, Risdon
Red cards: Nil
Venue: AAMI Park