MATCH REPORT | Victory secure Grand Final berth in Wellington classic

MATCH REPORT | Victory secure Grand Final berth in Wellington classic
MATCH REPORT | Victory secure Grand Final berth in Wellington classic

Melbourne Victory will play in the 2023/24 A-League Men’s Grand Final, having defeated Wellington Phoenix 2-1 in a classic semi-final second leg.

A sold out crowd at Sky Stadium created an electric atmosphere, with the first spot in the Grand Final on the line.

The first leg of the semi-final had finished 0-0, meaning everything was still to play for in the second leg of the tie.

The first half was as tense and hard-fought as the first leg of the tie, with both teams looking most dangerous in transition.

Daniel Arzani created a number of chances with his work on the wing, while Roly Bonevacia was regularly involved in the build-up.

Neither side were able to open the scoring by the time the first 45 minutes had elapsed, as the game continued to edge towards a dramatic conclusion.

Wellington came out looking even more determined in the second half, creating the majority of early chances.

Their strong start to the second stanza was soon rewarded, when a controversial penalty was awarded for handball just after the hour mark.

Coming at such a crucial moment of the game, Victory needed Paul Izzo to step up yet again.

Izzo seized the moment, making a superb diving save to deny Alex Rufer and the follow-up attempt.

Victory nearly capitalized on their regained momentum just minutes later, when Bruno Fornaroli had a golden chance to open the scoring, but his shot was well saved.

Extra time seemed an inevitability as the minutes ticked by and both clean sheets remained intact.

Victory were in need of something special. Adama Traore made himself an unlikely hero.

A searing strike from outside the box with just minutes of regulation time remaining looked to have sent Victory through to the Grand Final.

However, in the ninth minute of second half stoppage time, the Phoenix found their equalizer.

Heartbreak for Victory, whose spot in the Grand Final had been snatched at the death as they were forced to play an extra 30 minutes.

However, the heartbreak did not last long.

A corner delivered by substitute Jake Brimmer in the 102nd minute was flicked on by Roderick Miranda, finding his way to Chris Ikonomidis at the back post, who headed in from point-blank range to return Victory to the lead.

An extraordinary moment in an extraordinary game, Victory were once again in pole position to secure a Grand Final spot.

Despite the host’s best efforts, they were unable to breach the Victory defense for a second time.

Tony Popovic’s team held on for the final minutes, securing an unlikely win and passage to the 2023/24 A-League Men’s Grand Final.

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