A defiant but defeated Melbourne City FC bowed out of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series after a disappointing 3-0 semi-final loss against rivals Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Victory snatched the lead in the 18th minute as an unmarked Besart Berisha pounced on a Leigh Broxham cross following a quick overlap from the home side.
The Premiers Plate winners then doubled its lead through a clinical move as Fahid Ben Khalfallah clipped in a clever cross for Kosta Barbarouses to volley past ‘keeper Tando Velaphi into the top corner.
Substitute Archie Thompson sealed the result late in the 87th minute, iin front of 50,873 fans, ending City's potential for a dream run into the Grand Final.
The task was made all the more harder as City lost three players to injury before the hour mark, including winger David Williams in the first half.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic as City created a number of chances to work its way back into the match and held their own for numerous patches of the contest. In the end, it was Victory's early double that gave it the advantage and allow the hosts to sit back and absorb pressure.
That's not to say there wasn't any pressure applied by John van't Schip's side and there were plenty of opportunities that fell City's way.
Harry Novillo was a livewire in the first half and should have had a goal to his name in the second, while after conceding the two goals early in the first half, City’s defence looked much tighter with Kew Jaliens looking particularly comfortable.
The former Dutch international was the only change in John van’t Schip’s starting line-up from last week’s 2-0 triumph in New Zealand against Wellington Phoenix, returning from a one-match suspension to replace Paulo Retre at right-back.
Jaliens was tasked with protecting the right side from the onslaught from Ben Khalfallah, but it was from City left-hand side that Victory breached in the 18th minute.
Barbarouses made inroads before flicking the ball into the path of the onrushing Broxham who chipped in a cross to Berisha who headed into the bottom corner past Velaphi.
City threatened to hit back as Jonatan Germano’s low cross to the back post was met by Williams, but the pace of the ball made it difficult for the City winger to turn his shot on target and his slicing effort flew wide
Novillo then broke down the right with a quick change of pace and played in a searching pass, but no one was home to direct it in.
Novillo was a constant threat and fired in two free kicks in either half - the first, a low hard effort striking the side netting before Lawrence Thomas scopped out an effort in the second half.
But Novillo was replaced along with Williams and then later Aaron Mooy, which made it difficult for van't Schip's side to break back into the match.
The second half was similar, with Victory sitting back on its 2-0 cushion, but City failed to make it count on the score board as Novillo and Patrick Kisnorbo missed gilt-edged opportunities and then Thompson finished the match off with three minutes to play.
Hyundai A-League Semi-Final 1
Friday, 8 May 2015
Melbourne Victory 3 (Besart Berisha 18’, Kosta Barbarouses 30’, Archie Thompson 87')
Melbourne City FC 0
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Referee: Kris GRIFFITHS-JONES
Melbourne Victory: 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 4. Nicholas ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN, 6. Leigh BROXHAM (2. Jason GERIA 66’), 7. Gui FINKLER, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (10. Archie THOMPSON 78’) 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 17. Mathiew DELPIERRE (16. Rashid MAHAZI 89'), 21. Carl VALERI
Substitutes not used: 40. Michael TURNBULL (GK), 11. Connor PAIN
Yellow Cards: Broxham 28’, Georgievski
Red Cards: Nil
Melbourne City FC: 20. Tando VELAPHI (GK), 4. Connor CHAPMAN, 5. Erik PAARTALU, 6. Aaron MOOY (21. Stefan MAUK 51’), 9. Harry NOVILLO (18. Paulo RETRE 59’), 10. Robert KOREN, 13. Jonatan GERMANO, 15. David WILLIAMS (23. Mate DUGANDZIC 40’), 16. Josh KENNEDY, 24. Patrick KISNORBO, 27. Kew JALIENS
Substitutes not used: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 8. Massimo MURDOCCA
Yellow Cards: Novillo 38’, Mooy 44’, Jaliens 85'
Red Cards: Nil