Melbourne City have set-up a huge semi-final clash with local rivals Melbourne Victory after their upset 2-0 Elimination Final win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night.
A tense affair sprung to life in the second half as Josh Kennedy and a Glen Moss own goal in the space of 11 minutes swung the game in City’s favour.
The Phoenix never stopped trying to get back into the contest but struggled to break down a stubborn City rear-guard.
The reward for City is a massive Melbourne Derby against the Premiers’ Plate winners for a spot in this year’s decider.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It was a very tough game, full credit to the boys especially considering the last couple of weeks we’ve had. We dug deep – I know that’s the normal response after a win but the boys played out of their skin.” – Melbourne City’s Josh Kennedy
“It’s so disappointing, who would’ve thought our home record would’ve been the thing that let us down this season. We had a good run into the semis in terms of home games and we didn’t take advantage.” – Wellington Phoenix’s Andrew Durante
0-1 Kennedy (61’) – A quick City counter-attack saw them stream forward in numbers with the ball eventually getting to Harry Novillo in the box. The chance looked to have gone when the French winger was closed down but the ball fell to Aaron Mooy who lashed it towards goal, with Kennedy getting a touch to wrong-foot Glen Moss and go in.
0-2 Moss og (72’) – Another crisp, clinical counter-attack was started and finished by Novillo. After Robi Koren picked him out with a cross from the right, Novillo’s shot took a slight deflection off Ben Sigmund and hit the post, rebounding back onto Moss and going in. Cruel luck for the Phoenix gloveman.
A silly foul by Harry Novillo presented Phoenix with a free-kick just outside the City box on 28 minutes. After Roly Bonevacia wasted one earlier, Michael McGlinchey took this one and went within a whisker of giving the home side the lead. His strike went high over the wall but had great dip, swerve and power to crash onto the cross bar and away. It was the closest either side came to a goal until Josh Kennedy had three chances in quick succession early in the second half, taking one to give City the lead. With the score still at 1-0, Nathan Burns squandered a great chance when his header was saved by Tando Velaphi from point-blank range. It should have been a goal and could have turned the match, but Novillo made him pay soon after.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Phoenix’s first half struggles continued, now failing to find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes in six successive matches. The win was just City’s second against Wellington in their last 12 clashes and the first time in their last seven games this season they have scored more than one goal.
Josh Kennedy’s goal might have been the difference but the performance of City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo was just as important for the visitors. The all-action defender threw his body into every challenge, blocking shots and coming up with vital tackles on numerous occasions, including for City’s opening goal. Even Fox Sports commentator Andy Harper was impressed by the defending, noting: “Patrick Kisnorbo is at his happiest when he’s horizontal”.