Melbourne City booked its spot in the Westfield FFA Cup Final after defeating rivals Melbourne Victory 2-0 in a fiery Melbourne Derby at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
It was an encapsulating contest from beginning to finish, with the second largest FFA Cup crowd of 15,791 flocking through the gates to witness another Melbourne Derby encounter which produced plenty of fireworks.
Luke Brattan got the ball rolling with a long range strike after just nine minutes, while Fernando Brandan put the icing on the cake in the second-half to send City to its first ever tournament final.
Overall, it was a deserved reward for John van’t Schip’s side. The attacking incision which was so dearly missed against Perth Glory last week returned when it mattered most, while the defence stood firm amongst a wave of Victory pressure in the second-half to record an impressive clean sheet.
The result sets up a tantalising FFA Cup final against A-League opponents Sydney FC, with the tournament showpiece to be played at AAMI Park on Wednesday 30 November.
Head Coach John van’t Schip made only one change to the side which fell to defeat against Perth Glory last round, with Nick Fitzgerald replacing the injured Bruce Kamau on the right side of attack.
The Melbourne Derby has thrown up its fair share of memorable goals and enthralling battles throughout its history, but with a shot at the season’s first piece of silverware up for grabs, there was more at stake than local bragging rights.
City, buoyed by a rampant 4-1 win over its arch-rivals at Etihad Stadium only ten days ago, were up for the challenge right from the get go.
Fornaroli and Fernando, so influential in that stirring Derby performance, manufactured the first opening of the game in the eighth minute with a sumptuous bit of interplay.
A neat flick from the City captain saw Fernando weave his way into the penalty area and lay off a neat square pass to Tim Cahill, who was thwarted by a smart reaction save from the boot of Lawrence Thomas.
It was a frantic start to the sudden-death cup tie. There was venom and vigour thrown into each challenge, niggle at each confrontation. It was knock-out football at its finest.
Fitting that the opening goal arrived under a cloud of controversy, as Brattan fired past Thomas into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area only moments later.
Protests erupted as the assistant referee deemed Cahill to have interfered from an offside position, but referee Shaun Evans disagreed and the goal stood as City drew first blood.
The action packed opening to the match continued soon after when Michael Jakobsen showed great awareness to clear a looping header off the line, but Victory would rue missing a golden chance to level the scores on the half-hour mark.
Leigh Broxham instigated a swift break with a neat pass which sent Marco Rojas on his way, who then squared to Besart Berisha. More often than not the Albanian finds the back of the net from the penalty area, but he blazed his effort well over the bar.
The frenetic rhythm of the match carried on into the second half as Victory ramped up the pressure in search of the equaliser.
Fernando had the crowd on its feet once again in the 52nd minute with a sublime piece of skill, selling Geria with a deft fake before trying to pick out the top corner with a curling effort that sailed high and wide.
Victory’s best chance of the game arrived only moments later as Broxham let fly with a stinging drive destined for the bottom corner, but Josh Rose intervened with a crucial touch to flick the ball out for a corner.
The chances were starting to flow for the home side as Valeri flashed a drive over the crossbar from distance, before Rojas had his header chalked off for offside on Berisha in the build-up.
Relief quickly turned to elation soon after as Fernando extinguished any hopes of a Victory comeback in the 77th minute to double City’s advantage.
Nick Ansell picked the wrong place on the pitch to attempt a dribbling escapade as Paulo Retre disposessed the central defender inside the penalty area.
He then fed Fitzgerald, whose shot on goal squirmed through the legs of Thomas and was destined for the bottom corner, but Fernando found the back of the net for the third time in as many matches to send City all the way to the Final.
Westfield FFA Cup – Semi Final
Melbourne Victory 0
Melbourne City FC 2 (Luke BRATTAN 9’, Fernando BRANDAN 77')
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Shaun Evans
Melbourne City FC: 20. Dean Bouzanis (GK), 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Joshua Rose, 8. Neil Kilkenny, 10. Anthony Caceres (Connor Chapman 61’), 12. Nick Fitzgerald (Ivan Franjic 90+2), 17. Tim Cahill (Paulo Retre 69’), 22. Michael Jakobsen, 23. Bruno Fornaroli (c), 26. Luke Brattan, 27. Fernando Brandan
Substitutes not used: 1. Thomas Sorensen (GK), 35. Christian Cavallo
Head Coach: John van’t Schip
Yellow cards: Jakobsen 82’
Red cards: nil
Melbourne Victory: 20. Lawrence Thomas (GK), 2. Jason Geria, 4. Nick Ansell, 5. Daniel Georgievski, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Marco Rojas, 8. Besart Berisha, 14. Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Sebastian Pasquali 60’), 15. Alan Baro, 16. Rashid Mahazi (Oliver Bozanic 75’) 21. Carl Valeri
Substitutes not used: 27. Alistair Bray (GK), 11. Mitch Austin 17. James Donachie,
Head Coach: Kevin Muscat
Yellow cards: Geria 33’, Baro 51, Broxham 74’, Berisha 82’, Valeri 84’
Red cards: nil