A ruthless Melbourne Victory have won through to their first A-League grand final in five years with a 3-0 triumph over cross-town rivals Melbourne City.
Besart Berisha and Kosta Barbarouses fired the A-League premiers into a comfortable lead within half an hour of the semi-final with classy goals.
In reply, City fashioned plenty of chances but none that could beat an in-form Lawrence Thomas in Victory’s goal.
Instead, Archie Thompson found a late third goal to confirm Victory will host the A-League grand final next Sunday.
City can rue their bad luck as David Williams, Aaron Mooy and Harry Novillo were forced off before the hour mark through injury, cruelling their chances.
Playing in front of a Victory-dominated crowd of 50,871 at Etihad Stadium, Kevin Muscat’s side took their chances in emphatic fashion, cementing their position as Melbourne’s No 1 side.
Sydney FC or Adelaide United await the premiers following tonight’s second semi-final.
Whether it was the short break, the step up in class, or just the moment, Melbourne City were found lacking on the biggest stage of their young history.
Berisha’s opening goal, his fifth against City at Etihad Stadium this season, came on 19 minutes. Leigh Broxham’s overlapping run was honoured by Barbarouses, with the right-back finding the unmarked Berisha inches from goal.
Without a City defender in sight, the Albanian glanced a header past former Victory gloveman Tando Velaphi.
John van ’t Schip’s side were fashioning more chances than Victory but were undone on the half-hour mark when Barbarouses added a second goal.
And what a goal it was.
From Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s cross, Barbarouses, stepped back, balanced and unleashed a technically perfect volley to live long in the memory, striking a waist-high ball sweetly from the penalty spot into the corner of the net.
This was Victory’s night, confirmed as much within minutes of the restart.
Still City pushed, Kennedy heading wide and Patrick Kisnorbo firing wide when alone in the box.
City’s captain took a turn upfront as they looked to find something but it was Victory that made the play via a club legend. With Berisha heading a Gui Finkler corner against the upright, substitute Thompson latched on to a loose ball to tap home, securing their place in the decider.
Muscat, who saw his team cast aside their recent history of semi-final eliminations, said his team’s progression came through hard work.
“We started the game with great intent and the application was superb,” he said.
“We scored two outstanding goals and it’s fitting that we’ve made the final for the season we’ve had.” Van ’t Schip said.
City had enough chances to win the game but they couldn’t contend with the injuries to their players.
“The effort of the boys, you couldn’t say anything about that,” he said.
“Going behind 2-0 didn’t make it too easy.
“Getting three injured players … that was difficult to replace.”