Hyundai A-League Weekend Wrap - Finals Week One
A spectacular opening week of the Hyundai A-League finals series has seen Gold Coast and Perth both knocked out of contention in dramatic penalty shootouts against Newcastle and Wellington respectively.
Results - Finals Major semi-final - first leg MELBOURNE VICTORY 2, Sydney FC 1
Elimination Finals: Gold Coast 0, NEWCASTLE JETS 0 (Newcastle won 6-5 on penalties) WELLINGTON PHOENIX 1, Perth Glory 1 (Wellington won 4-3 on penalties)
Game Wraps A spectacular opening week of the Hyundai A-League finals series has seen Gold Coast and Perth both knocked out of contention in dramatic penalty shootouts against Newcastle and Wellington respectively.
Gold Coast was bundled out after missing several excellent chances to defeat Newcastle on Saturday night at Skilled Park. Newcastle keeper Ben Kennedy denied United on several occasions and the match went to a shootout when the teams were locked at 0-0 after extra time.
Both sides converted their penalties until Jin Hyung Song missed with the 11th shot, giving Kristian Rees a chance to win it from the spot. But he skied his shot, getting Newcastle back into the contest. Nikolai Topor-Stanley made it 6-5 to put all the pressure on Zenon Caravella.
Kennedy produced a magnificent one-handed save and the Jets, who had lost their last four games of the season, were still alive.
On Sunday in Wellington a crowd of 24,278 witnessed the Phoenix continue their dream season in a drama-filled match against Perth.
Chris Greenacre put the hosts in front after 37 minutes, before Perth's Scott Neville levelled halfway through the second half.
The teams couldn't be separated after 90 minutes, while Perth had its chance when Jon McKain was shown a second yellow card in the first half of extra time. It went to penalties and it was the home side which held its nerve. Liam Reddy saved penalties from the boots of Naum Sekulovski and Scott Bulloch.
On Thursday, Melbourne put one foot into the Grand Final with a 2-1 win over Sydney at Etihad Stadium.
Melbourne took a 2-0 lead thanks to first half goals from Nik Mrdja and Carlos Hernandez, but Sydney pulled one back just before half-time after a deflection from John Aloisi's shot.
More drama unfolded in the second half as Mrdja was sent off with 19 minutes left, but Melbourne held on to take a one-goal advantage in to the second leg at the SFS on Sunday March 7.
Wellington and Newcastle also meet on Sunday March 7 in Wellington.
Weekend Goals Tally: 5
Attendances (total / average): 30232/10777
Goal of the Week - Nik Mrdja The big striker chose the perfect time to open his account for his new club. A long ball from Kevin Muscat saw Mrjda against both Simon Colosimo and Stephan Kellar. He outmuscled them and won the ball and hit a clever shot past Clint Bolton and into the net.
Player of the Week - Ben Kennedy Finals are always tense times for goalkeepers, especially with the prospect of penalty shootouts hanging over their heads. But Ben Kennedy, who has copped a bit of flak this year, most of it from his coach, chose the perfect time to play his most important game. He pulled off a string of saves during regular time and then stopped Zenon Caravella's shot to get Newcastle through to the final four.
One to Watch - Liam Reddy Reddy's heroics in the penalty shootout against Perth got Wellington through after a nervous time of it at Westpac Stadium. He has been a key player for the Phoenix since crossing from Brisbane and while his stay in the NZ capital might not extend past this year, he will play a major role in trying to get the Phoenix to the Grand Final.