Sky Blues hold off relentless Reds to set sights on historic three-peat
Sydney FC booked a place in the 2020/21 A-League Grand Final after seeing off a stern Semi Final challenge from Adelaide United to win 2-1 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night.
It looked as though a routine Sky Blues victory was on the cards when Adam Le Fondre stepped up to the spot with the chance to make it 3-0 early in the second half, but a James Delianov penalty save sparked a Reds fightback which the home side survived to progress to the Grand Final on Saturday, June 26.
Sydney will face the winner of Sunday afternoon's second Semi Final between Melbourne City and Macarthur FC as Steve Corica looks to guide his side to an unprecedented third-consecutive A-League Championship.
Le Fondre got the scoring started in Sydney with a 24th-minute converted penalty before Bobô doubled the advantage on the cusp of half-time, getting on the end of a smart volleyed cross into the box from Joel King to send the Sky Blues toward victory.
After finding the bottom-left corner with his first attempt from the spot, Le Fondre failed to beat Delianov with his 50th-minute penalty struck in the same direction to give the Reds belief that the comeback was on.
Juande rattled the back of the net in the 64th minute with a half-volley from outside the box to stun the home crowd and add fuel to Adelaide's fire, but the much-needed equaliser was not to come by the end of six minutes of additional time.
SEMI FINAL PREVIEW: Melbourne City v Macarthur FC
The Reds applied early pressure at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium with wingers Ben Halloran and Ryan Kitto playing dangerous balls into Sydney's defensive box off either flank within the first 60 seconds of play. Thomas Heward-Belle put a fingertip touch on Kitto's delivery before the Sky Blues cleared the danger and settled into the first ten minutes of the Semi Final clash.
The Reds played in the face of a forceful wind throughout the first half, but full-back Ryan Strain would have hoped for an even stronger gust to help push his shot from a tight angle underneath Heward-Belle's crossbar in the 13th minute of play.
Halloran played Strain into the box with a deft flick off the outside of his right foot and Strain sent his shot on goal, beating the Sydney 'keeper but skimming the bar as the ball diverted out for a goal kick.
The Reds put on an impressive 20-minute display to open the first half before goalkeeper Delianov made a hash of his attempt to collect the ball at the feet of Kosta Barbarouses as he drove into the box. The Sydney forward touched Baumjohann's lofted pass around Delianov before falling under contact from the outrushing gloveman.
Alireza Faghani waved the penalty claim away before the referee was advised by VAR to take another look. Faghani assessed the incident on the pitch-side monitor and reversed his decision, leaving Le Fondre to step forward and bury the resulting penalty into the bottom-left corner.
King tested Delianov in the minutes after the opening goal with a venomous shot from outside the box as Sydney got on top. Louis D'Arrigo and Halloran were unsuccessful with attempts on goal for the Reds before Bobô put the home team two goals ahead just before half-time.
The goal was crafted with class and quality as Anthony Caceres fed King down the left wing with a ball played over Adelaide's defensive line. King looked up at the runners in the box and elected to cut a sharp first-time volleyed pass back toward the penalty spot.
Bobô arrived on the slide to send his shot past Delianov, hitting the Reds with a tough blow to absorb in the minutes before the break.
Despite trailing by two goals the Reds began the second 45 on the back foot, allowing Sydney to get forward and heap pressure on Adelaide's defence, ultimately leading to a 50th-minute penalty call in favour of the hosts.
Baumjohann picked out a Barbarouses with an inventive through ball, and Javi López took the Sydney forward down in the box. The offside flag was raised but VAR intervened once again, concluding Reds defender Jordan Elsey had kept Barbarouses onside.
Le Fondre took the penalty duties and went to the bottom-left corner again - but Delianov was at the ready, pouncing on the low strike to deny with a strong right glove.
The stellar save helped the Reds avoid a potential 3-0 deficit, giving the visitors the confidence to press ahead and peg one back through a vicious Juande half-volley in the 64th minute.
Adelaide boss Carl Veart brought Mohamed Toure on in place of Kitto and the young forward made immediate impact, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box which Tomi Juric struck into a sturdy Sky Blue wall.
The ball fell to Juande, and the Spaniard struck with his first touch on the half-volley to rattle the back of the net and breath life into the Semi Final clash - but the touch of magic applied by Juande was the last of its kind the Reds could muster as the hosts saw off the challenge to win 2-1 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Next Match - Semi Finals
Melbourne City v Macarthur FC
Sunday, June 20 2021
Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, LIVE and FREE on Kayo Freebies!
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