A stunning brace from Bruno Fornaroli sent Melbourne City into the Hyundai A-League semi-finals for the second straight season as they defeated Perth Glory 2-0 on Sunday.
Fornaroli scored with a bicycle kick and a direct free-kick either side of half-time to vanquish Glory and set up a final-four clash with premiers Adelaide United next week.
City coach John van 't Schip was forced to select a number of youngsters with Ivan Franjic (hamstring) and Harry Novillo (suspension) unavailable, and the home side impressed at AAMI Park, keeping the previously free-flowing Glory relatively quiet.
1-0 (Bruno Fornaroli 40') - After Glory failed to clear a corner from Aaron Mooy, the ball fell for City's record-breaking striker. Fornaroli held off his opponent and then acrobatically launched a bicycle kick into the top corner of the net, although the visitors complained he should have been penalised for a high boot.
2-0 (Bruno Fornaroli 76') - The Uruguayan phenomenon won a free-kick on the edge of the area and then held off regular set-piece specialist Aaron Mooy to curl the ball past Glory goalkeeper Ante Covic for his 25th goal of the season.
With Perth pushing for an equaliser and enjoying some longer periods of possession in the second half, Fornaroli's second goal couldn't have come at a better time. It was a classic 'something-from-nothing' moment, with Fornaroli cleverly tempting contact from Warren for the foul before slotting his free-kick home from 25 yards.
Fornaroli came into his first A-League final with 23 goals to his name in his debut season in Australia but his 24th strike may have been his best. The Uruguayan striker showed tremendous audacity to attempt a bicycle kick in such a pressure situation, sending the ball into the top corner of Covic's net.
Just after half-time, Glory attacked down the left with Marc Warren's cross finding its way to Gyorgy Sandor unmarked at the back post. With the net gaping, Sandor decided to volley when a header may have been easier and the ball sliced wide. The visitors wouldn't come closer to an equaliser.
- Perth struggled to play out from defence throughout the contest with City's midfielders and defenders impressively reading Glory's passes. The hosts finished the match with 36 interceptions to 24.
THE FINAL WORD
With Franjic and Novillo unavailable, Van 't Schip turned to Paulo Retre and Jack Clisby in the full-back positions, while Ben Garuccio lined up at left wing.
The Dutch coach must have been thrilled with how his younger players performed on the big stage, and their collective display should give City fans some confidence about gaining revenge on Adelaide on Friday.
Anthony Caceres also impressed alongside Aaron Mooy as one of City's two playmakers and it could be that the finals bring out the best in the former Central Coast Mariners midfielder.
In the end, Perth appeared to run out of steam at the wrong point of the season after being crushed 4-0 away to Sydney FC last week.
How this match could have been different if Glory had won that match and hosted Sunday's elimination final, as Kenny Lowe's men have only lost one of their past 12 home games in the A-League.
Melbourne City: Sorensen (gk), Retre (Chapman 81'), Wilkinson, Kisnorbo, Clisby, Malik, Mooy, Caceres (Melling 67'), Fitzgerald, Garuccio (Marino 74'), Fornaroli
Perth Glory: Covic (gk), Risdon, Lowry, Grant (Djulbic 46'), Warren, Vadocz (Petratos 82'), Sandor, Marinkovic, Harold (Garcia 67'), Castro, Keogh
Scorers: Fornaroli 40' 76'
Red Cards: Nil
Yellow Cards: Harold 14', Lowry 31', Mooy 34', Castro 39', Kisnorbo 53', Garcia 73'
Conditions: 18 degrees, clear