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Mar 08, 2010   |  1:59AM AET

Victory through to decider

Victory through to decider

Melbourne Victory has written another epic chapter in its bitter rivalry with Sydney FC after coming from behind to secure a Grand Final berth thanks to a pulsating 2-2 draw in extra time of the major semi-final second leg the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday night.

Melbourne Victory has written another epic chapter in its bitter rivalry with Sydney FC after coming from behind to secure a Grand Final berth thanks to a pulsating 2-2 draw in extra time of the major semi-final second leg the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday night.

A wonder strike from surprise Victory starter Robbie Kruse handed the visitors the lead as early as the 15th minute before a dubious penalty call on the Victory’s Adrian Leijer enabled Karol Kisel to equalise from the penalty spot with 10 minutes remaining until half-time.

Mark Bridge scored again for the hosts in the 54th minute, leveling the tie up 3-3 on aggregate and sending it into extra time

Victory super sub Archie Thompson nabbed a crafty equaliser in the second period of extra time to hand Melbourne its third home grand final in four seasons.

With only seven minutes remaining until the dreaded penalty shoot out, Thompson’s predatory instincts combined with Kevin Muscat’s craftiness to foil a hastily-constructed Sydney FC wall.

With Sydney FC defenders looking over their left shoulders for Muscat’s presumed delivery, Thompson snuck around the back to the right to meet Muscat’s side-footed pass, which enabled the Victory striker to slide it under keeper Clint Bolton’s panicked parry.

In an absorbing opening 10 minutes with both sides breaking even in midfield, Sydney FC started brightly with an opportunity gifted to Alex Brosque with the clock having just ticked past the secnd minute.

From an inviting corner from the right side, Brosque was presented with an open header at goal, only for his powerful effort to be scrambled off the line by Tom Pondeljak at the back post with Victory keeper Mitch Langerak well beaten.

Melbourne’s first chance at troubling the scorers came in the 11th minute, with Nick Ward lofting a long ball into the path of Robbie Kruse who had managed to escape down the left channel.

With acres of space in which to move, the rising of the linesman’s flag incensed the Victory striker who was certain he had maintained his run, with replays suggesting Kruse had grounds for questioning the call.

Kruse would earn his just rewards in the 15th minute, however, with Ward rolling the ball into his path down the left once more.

Taking the ball under control, Kruse cut inside Kisel, turned his back on Simon Colosimo’s defensive lunge and spun around Stuart Musialik from the top of the box, before lashing a beautiful curling drive past Bolton’s urgent dive and into the top-right corner.

A chance to increase the lead presented soon after for the Victory with Carlos Hernandez belting a powerful volley from 35 yards to the right of Bolton.

However, the Sydney FC custodian was able to get his fingertips to the bobbling ball to push it wide.

Sydney FC was then forced into its shells for the next 18 minutes of play before Bridge exploded into life for the home side.

Playing a neat one-two with Brosque, the former Newcastle Jets striker broke hard into the middle of the box and with Langerak to beat, he inexplicably pushed the ball wide of the near post and out of play.

The hosts would only need to wait a further two minutes before leveling the scores as Brosque’s pursuit of Stephan Keller’s long ball to the back post resulted in Leijer going shoulder to shoulder with the Sydney FC marksman.

With both players competing for the same piece of turf, Leijer elected to stick out his right elbow which made contact with Brosque’s back and brought him to ground.

Referee Delovski was given no other option but to point to the spot.

From the resulting penalty, Kisel made no mistake as he smashed home the shot hard into the top-left corner, with the Victory keeper guessing the correct side but unfortunately arriving too late to stop the thunderous volley as Sydney FC squared the game at 1-1 but still trailed 3-2 on aggregate.

A chance for Melbourne to reply to Sydney’s equaliser came on the stroke of half-time as Nick Ward skipped over ex-team-mate Sebastien Ryall’s late sliding tackle, darted inside the left side of the box and turned in a neat ball to Kruse who fluffed his lines with only Bolton to get past.

Sydney FC came out will all guns blazing in a helter-skleter start to the second half, with Sung Byun’s booming half volley from the top of the box in the 46th minute forcing an acrobatic double-fisted save
from Langerak.

Controlling general play, Sydney FC snuck ahead in the 54th minute, courtesy of a crafty interchange of passes down the left wing where Terry McFlynn found Byun with his opponent beaten.

Byun, with ample time, stood up a pinpoint ball at the back post which Kisel lay back into the path of Bridge on the corner of the box.

Bridge duly unloaded a rocketed drive which thrashed past Langerak at furious speed.

With the aggregate score tied at 3-3, the home side should have put the tie to bed in the 61st minute with John Aloisi gathering high inside the box.

However, his selfless cross to McFlynn took the latter too long to pounce on with the Victory defence combining to deflect the ball clear of danger.

Thompson was injected into the fray soon after, and with Hernandez linking up with his team-mate with a scything pass from midfield, Thompson managed to squirt around Musialik and Colosimo inside the box before being bundled to ground by Keller.

However, urgent pleas for a penalty fell on deaf ears as Delovski waved play on.

As the game wore on, Thompson was proving to be the catalyst for the visitors with a string of chances being denied by stoic defending from Ryall and brilliant individual work from Bolton, punctuated by a superb save in the 86th minute.

With Thompson yet again breaking hard into the centre of the six-yard box, Bolton sprinted out from his goal to smother and reduce the angle of Thompson’s run, with the resulting shot on goal driven hard into Bolton’s flailing arms.

Try as it might, Sydney continued to press hard in extra time for the goal that would carry it through to the grand final.

However, it would be the old firm of Muscat, in his 100th Hyundai A-League appearance, and his wily counterpart Thompson, who would prove the decisive factors in the Victory’s vital 2-2 draw.

Melbourne Victory 2 (Kruse 15, Thompson 113)
Sydney FC 2 (Kisel 35p, Bridge 54)