Grand final analysis: Sydney FC clear favourites

For the 10th time in the Hyundai A-League history, the top two sides from the regular season will meet in the grand final and, based on the semi-finals, Sydney FC should have little trouble against Melbourne Victory.

Sydney cruised into the championship decider on Saturday night with a 3-0 win over Perth Glory, while Victory huffed and puffed in their 1-0 triumph over Brisbane Roar on Sunday.

Sparkling Sydney FC surge into home decider

Berisha fires Victory into grand final

Considering the Sky Blues won all three meetings with Victory so far in 2016/17, the contrasting semi-final displays indicate Graham Arnold’s premiers should win the third grand final between these two proud clubs.

In 2009/10, Sydney triumphed on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Etihad Stadium, while two years ago Victory won 3-0 at AAMI Park.

Besart Berisha’s emphatic 70th-minute header from Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s cross saw Victory past Roar at AAMI Park, and it was the type of clinical finish the hosts lacked for the majority of the match.

If the Big V are to stun Sydney at Allianz Stadium next week, they will need to be far more lethal in front of goal than they were against Brisbane.

Berisha wasted two big opportunities in the opening 10 minutes, completely missing a toe-poke on the edge of the six-yard box and then scuffing a one-on-one straight at Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young.

Melbourne Victory team shot

While the majority of Brisbane’s starting XI didn’t travel to Thailand midweek for their AFC Champions League fixture against Muangthong United, it appeared dual continental and domestic responsibilities caught up with John Aloisi’s side.

Having also played 120 minutes in their elimination final win over Western Sydney Wanderers last week, Roar struggled to handle Victory’s press in Melbourne.

But having kept the game scoreless in the first half, the visitors reminded Victory of the danger they posed when Brandon Borrello shot just over the crossbar in the 49th minute.

In the end, Berisha’s goal against his former club was enough for Kevin Muscat’s side to advance to their record fifth A-League grand final but Arnold – who was amongst the 20,202 crowd – should be confident of success for Sydney on Sunday. 

After weathering an early flurry from a very direct Perth on Saturday night, Sydney settled well into their first match in a fortnight.

While Glory’s defence looked comfortable in the opening quarter-hour, carrying on from their impressive win over Melbourne City, they allowed Josh Brillante too much space in the 21st minute as the midfielder blasted home from 25 yards.

Having taken the lead, the Sky Blues seemed to go up a gear with Bobo forcing two saves from Perth goalkeeper Liam Reddy in three minutes.

Perth Glory players question the referee after one of Sydney FC's three first-half goals.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system played a significant role in Sydney’s other two goals – once somewhat controversially, the other a clear-cut example of how it’s supposed to work.

Jordy Buijs doubled the hosts’ lead in the 37th minute but the goal was awarded in confusing circumstances.

As the Dutch centre-back surged through Perth’s midfield, a heavy touch appeared to bring an offside Bobo in to play only for the Brazilian striker to block Dino Djulbic’s run, allowing Buijs to beat Reddy.

Referee Peter Green awarded the goal, then was alerted to a raised flag from his assistant before VAR Strebre Delovski intervened and awarded the goal.

On reflection, the VAR did what it was supposed to do – there was no ‘obvious error’ as shown by the fact everyone who saw it appeared to have a different opinion on the incident – but that would have been little consolation to the system’s critics or sceptics.

Delovski’s next involvement ensured Sydney led 3-0 at the break, as he correctly informed Green that Filip Holosko was not offside – as he had originally been judged – as he headed Brandon O’Neill’s cross past Reddy in stoppage time.

Filip Holosko celebrates his goal in Sydney's win over Perth Glory.

Glory had their chances to get back into the match in the second half – Andy Keogh went close twice before the hour mark – but the Sky Blues closed the match out relatively comfortably.

Sydney have had the edge over Victory in the three Big Blues so far this term – Arnold’s side have twice come from behind – but have only won each match by the single goal.

That evenness in terms of scoreline will give Muscat some hope – and he will be his typically bullish self this week – but Sydney look on track to win their third Hyundai A-League Championship.

Sydney FC will play Melbourne Victory in the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Grand Final.