Big Blue Semi-Final: Can Victory get GF revenge?
Sydney FC capped a remarkable Hyundai A-League 2016/17 season by lifting the Championship trophy in last May’s Grand Final.
But despite the Sky Blues’ all-conquering campaign, they were just half a post’s width away from leaving Allianz Stadium with only the runners-up medals.
In the first minute of the second half in extra time, Melbourne Victory’s James Troisi turned and shot brilliantly towards the Sydney FC goal. The curling strike beat goalkeeper Danny Vukovic but cannoned off the upright and away to safety.
A goal then and Victory may well have held on for a win. Instead, Sydney FC got the job done via a penalty shoot-out.
Kevin Muscat’s men had three chances for revenge in the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 season, but couldn’t take any of them. Three games, three wins for Sydney FC, who have now won the last seven meetings between the two great rivals.
But is retribution finally coming for Melbourne Victory on Saturday night?
There’s no question Victory play better when the stakes are high. Most observers would concede they were at least the equal of Sydney FC in last season’s Grand Final, especially in the first half.
They came out fizzing and Besart Berisha’s first-half goal was nothing less than they deserved.
It took a stirring comeback from Sydney FC to force the game beyond 90 minutes and only after Troisi came within inches of winning it for Victory did the Sky Blues finally claim the silverware their season deserved.
If there was doubt about which team were better in last season’s showpiece, there was none at all two years previously. Melbourne simply dominated the 2014/15 Big Blue Grand Final, winning 3-0 and hardly giving Sydney FC a sniff.
Even Carl Valeri’s late sending off couldn’t mask the fact that Victory were in complete control for the entire game. That’s what they can do when they’re in the mood.
They have match-winners in the form of Kosta Barbarouses, Troisi and one of this season’s true stars Leroy George.
Oh, and let’s not forget Berisha. He always scores in finals games. He acrobatically guided home the winner against Adelaide United last week and has now scored in his last seven finals outings. He always scores.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. With 51 weeks for their disappointment to cool, Melbourne Victory will have just one, icy-cold thought in their minds when they again meet Sydney FC in knockout football on Saturday evening.