Sydney FC turn on the style to down Glory and book Grand Final place
Sydney FC will bid for an unprecedented fifth Hyundai A-League Championship after brushing aside their 2019 Grand Final victims Perth Glory, 2-0, in Wednesday's second Semi-Final.
Milos Ninkovic broke the deadlock with a clinical finish and Perth keeper Liam Reddy was left red-faced after Adam Le Fondre showed his hustle to net a poacher’s goal as the defending Champions dismantled Glory in a four-minute first-half blitz at Bankwest Stadium.
No team had ever competed in a post-season contest following a run of five winless regular season matches but Steve Corica’s side showed no hangover from their meandering journey to the Premiers Plate and delivered a thrilling 45 minute display of free-flowing football to blow Perth away.
The hero of Glory's 1-0 Elimination Final win against Wellington Phoenix four days earlier, Joel Chianese, missed a gilt-edge chance to net a response and the effervescent Bruno Fornaroli crashed a shot off both posts as Tony Popovic’s side failed to capitalise on their second-half pressure.
Only five Perth players remained from last season’s finale and, without their inspirational captain Diego Castro, Glory were a shadow of the side that came a dramatic penalty shootout away from lifting their first Championship 15 months ago as the Sky Blues poured more Finals Series misery on their title rivals.
The Harbour City outfit held on to claim their first victory in 40 days and only their second win in seven matches since the restart to advance to a record-equalling sixth Grand Final on Sunday, 30 August against a Melbourne City side competing in the big dance for the first time in their club’s history.
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The gulf in quality between Premiers and six-seeds was apparent from the off with Glory pinned back in their own territory and Sydney on the rampage. Reddy pulled off a superb close-range block as Kosta Barbarouses slammed Luke Brattan’s cutback towards goal after three minutes and Juande made a vital block on Ninkovic as the Sky Blues controlled a staggering 95% of possession in the opening five minutes.
It took Perth 14 minutes to make their first advances into Andrew Redmayne’s penalty area but Jake Brimmer was squeezed out after combining nicely with Fornaroli, before versatile Spanish defender Juande came to the rescue once again by throwing a last-ditch block from inside the six-yard box after Anthony Caceras attacked Le Fondre’s 19th-minute delivery.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 24 minutes following a moment for fortune for the Sky Blues. When Paulo Retre’s through ball cannoned off the legs off Perth defender Tarek Elrich and landed invitingly into the path of Ninkovic, the Serbian star did not need a second invitation to shoot and stroked it calmly past the outstretched hand of Reddy and into the Glory net.
If Sydney claimed a favourable bounce to open the scoring, Le Fondre made his own luck to double the advantage four minutes later. Reddy collected a back-pass but delayed far too long as the Englishman rapidly closed him down. The Sky Blues’ leading marksman for the past two seasons timed his sliding tackle to perfection and sent the ball trickling agonisingly across Perth’s goal-line to notch his 21st goal of the campaign, leaving the 39-year-old gloveman red faced.
Glory showed some urgency to get back into the game in the lead in to half-time, with Ivan Frajtic blazing over from the edge of the box after Sydney failed to clear their lines following Neil Kilkenny’s corner. And the Western Australian club upped the tempo further after the interval as Chianese burst through the Sky Blues' defence but, with a clear sight of goal, fired his 49th-minute shot wide of Redmayne’s post.
Brattan gave Perth a reminder of the Sky Blues’ threat on the counter but could not hit the target as the clock ticked past the hour and Glory were cursing their luck when Fornaroli sent a shot from a seemingly impossible angle off the edge of both posts and to safety on 74 minutes as Sydney FC’s defence breathed a sigh of relief.
The Sky Blues sat back and suffocated Perth in the closing stages as Popovic’s side struggled to find space in a compact final third. Uruguayan frontman Fornaroli was driving the resistance, drilling an 86th-minute free-kick from 20 yards over the crossbar, but Glory once again fell short and Sydney took a step closer to rewriting the Hyundai A-League’s history books.
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2020
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
When: Sunday, August 30
Kick-off: 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView