The ‘good omens’ amid an unprecedented A-Leagues quest with a slice of history up for grabs

Ahead of this weekend’s Isuzu UTE A-League Semi-Final second legs, Opta data identifies the underlying numbers and what could be key to reaching the Grand Final.

With a place in the Grand Final on the line, all eyes are on the second legs of the Isuzu UTE A-League Semi-Finals this weekend, and it is all to play for in both ties.

Reigning champions Central Coast Mariners take a 2-1 aggregate lead into their home game against Sydney FC, while Wellington Phoenix welcome Melbourne Victory to Sky Stadium for their first Semi-Final on home turf, with the tie level at 0-0 after the first leg.

But, what do the numbers tell us about what we might be able to expect from the second legs, and which teams will be facing off in the Grand Final on May 25?


Central Coast v Sydney FC at Industree Group Stadium!
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium!

There are good omens for the Mariners, with seven of the 11 teams to have won the first leg of a two-legged finals series in the A-League having gone on to progress on aggregate.

Indeed, only three times in A-League history has a team that lost the first leg recovered to win the second leg of a two-legged finals match. Those are Western United v Melbourne Victory in 2022, the Mariners v Newcastle Jets in 2008 and the Jets v Sydney in 2007.

That being said, the Mariners have lost three of their last four legs of two-legged finals matches at the Industree Group Stadium, although all three of those defeats came against Brisbane Roar between 2009 and 2012.

STATE OF PLAY: All the details about the Semi-Final second legs with a Grand Final on the line

Central Coast came from behind in the first leg, with Joel King having put Sydney ahead before Josh Nisbet and Mikael Doka turned things around prior to Jack Rodwell – the former Manchester City and Everton midfielder – seeing red for Sydney while Corey Hollman also saw red for the Sky Blues.

The Mariners were the better team, though. They accumulated an expected goals (xG) of 1.86 to Sydney’s 0.38, having nine shots to their opponent’s four and getting six of those on target.

Isuzu UTE A-League Second Leg

Adelaide United50050%
Brisbane Roar431075%
Central Coast Mariners622233%
Melbourne City2200100%
Melbourne Victory421150%
Newcastle Jets311133%
Sydney FC511320%
Wellington Phoenix0000
Western United1100100%

Indeed, history is not on Sydney’s side, given they have lost the second legs of two-legged finals matches three times, with only Adelaide United (five) having lost more.

What about their overall record in two-legged finals series, though?

The Mariners have played 13 legs overall, more than any other Isuzu UTE A-League team, and they have won five of those.

Drilling down into second legs specifically, they have an even split of two wins, two draws and two defeats from their six such fixtures so far. That is in comparison to them winning four of their seven first legs. Should they win on Saturday, they will match Brisbane on three second-leg victories, the most of any A-League Men team.

Sydney, meanwhile, are second in the A-League when it comes to total legs played across finals series, with 11, but they have only won two of them. 

Central Coast are fancied to progress, with the Mariners having a 49.9% chance of winning the game and making the Grand Final. Sydney have a slender 23.3%, meaning of the four teams left, they are the most unlikely to make the showcase match.

Before Central Coast host Sydney, Victory travel to Wellington to take on the Phoenix.

The last time Victory drew 0-0 in the first leg of a Finals Series tie, they went on to win the second leg, but that was way back in 2007, when they beat Adelaide 2-1.

Victory have won two, drawn one and lost one of their previous four second legs, but they are not fancied by Opta’s model to overcome first-time Semi-Finalists Wellington, who have a win probability of 41.4% in contrast to Victory’s 29.7%. 

Like the Mariners, Victory will therefore be aiming to move onto three second-leg wins in Finals Series.

Victory had 20 shots in the first leg, yet only mustering 0.78 xG, while the Phoenix had only six shots, with an xG of 0.32.

This season’s metrics

Looking at the overall metrics for the campaign, Sydney lead the way in the league for goals, with 57, having outperformed their 53.68 xG, albeit their expected goals on target (xGOT) is actually 63.44, suggesting Sydney have been unfortunate not to net more based on the quality of their shooting.

Team  Goals ↓Expected Goals  Expected Goals on Target  Total Shots (inc. Blocks)  Shots on Target  Shot Conversion Rate (inc. Blocks)  
Sydney FC5753.6863.4453820110.59
Adelaide United5253.7755.4350016910.4
Melbourne City5149.6263.4746917810.87
Central Coast Mariners5144.6855.0838215513.35
Perth Glory4643.7943.237113812.4

The Mariners are joint-third for goals scored (51), outperforming their xG by 6.32, while they have – like Sydney – underperformed their xGOT (55.43).

Wellington, on the other hand, are joint-third lowest for goals scored (42), along with the Roar, though their shot conversion rate of 13.59% is the best in the competition, just ahead of the Mariners’ 13.35%.

The Phoenix also have the best defence in the league when it comes to goals conceded, allowing just 26, while they also boast the second-best expected goals against (xGA) in the division, at 40.19, which ranks behind the Mariners’ 32.29.

Team  Goals AgainstxGA
Central Coast Mariners2832.29
Wellington Phoenix2640.19
Melbourne Victory3440.9

Victory are third-best for xGA, at 40.9, and so it is perhaps no surprise that the first leg of their clash with the Phoenix was so tight.

Four-time champions Victory had their chances in that game, though being wasteful in front of goal is not new to them – they have underperformed their 48.45 xG, scoring 44 goals across the season.