Five things we learned from A-League semi-finals

Nothing happened in the semi-finals to change Sydney FC's rating as hot favourites to win the grand final and complete the greatest season in A-League history.

Sydney FC

Sydney FC players celebrate their semi-final win over Perth Glory Source: Getty Images

1. Sydney FC will win the grand final

Melbourne Victory deserve to be in the grand final, but they're still second-best.

They haven't quite been able to go with Sydney all season and that won't change in the grand final - particularly with the Sky Blues having the home-ground advantage.


The Victory will make all the noises about it being a one-off game and anything can happen, and that's true, but the fact is they were at home when they beat Brisbane 1-0 in the semi-finals and Sydney will set them a far more difficult examination than the Roar did.

Brisbane's defending on the Victory's goal was awful.

One by one, three players hung off Fahid Ben-Khalfallah, allowing him to get a cross in unchallenged, and then three more players, including goalkeeper Jamie Young, got it wrong in trying to defend Besart Berisha on the finish.

There is no way a well-drilled Sydney side will give the Victory such latitude. They would have clamped down on Ben-Khalfallah and made it much harder for him to make something happen.

2. Besart Berisha is the A-League's ultimate big-game player

It really is confirmation of the fact, rather than a revelation, but it still deserves recognition.

His goal against Brisbane was his 20th this season, his 101st in the A-League, his eighth in finals games and it also marked the sixth straight finals game in which he has scored.

It must also be pointed out, now that the Victory are through to the decider, that his teams (Brisbane twice and Victory once) have won all three grand finals in which he has played and he has scored in each game (four goals in total).

3. This finals system rewards the best teams

There will always be critics of the fact the A-League championship goes to the team that wins the grand final, rather than the one that finishes on top of the table in the regular season, but at least the current finals format weighs heavily in favour of the top two teams on the table.

The finals series is a virtual sprint, with just five games, and the top two get the first weekend off before playing at home in the second week.

Since the current format was introduced, in the 2012-13 season, the top two teams have made the grand final every year and the only time the Premiers' Plate winners haven't won the grand final was in that first year, when Western Sydney Wanderers lost 2-0 to Central Coast Mariners.

Since then, Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United have all completed the Premiers' Plate-championship double.

4. Leaving Thomas Broich on the bench was a luxury Brisbane couldn't afford

It was obvious from the fact 36-year-old Broich was one of the few regular first-team players who travelled to Thailand for the midweek AFC Champions League game - and played 63 minutes - that he wouldn't be starting in the semi-final.

Broich was left on the bench and that was a mistake for a team that was playing on the road in a knockout game, and needed to force the issue to do all they could to try to get in front rather than play the percentages and hope to take the lead through one big play or an opposition mistake.

By the time Broich came on, during the second half, the Victory were getting on top and, as hard as he tried, under those circumstances he couldn't make the impact he might have had he started.

5. The Video Assistant Referee got it right in the Sydney-Perth game

That is not to say the debate over whether VAR technology should be used at all isn't still worthwhile. It is, because it remains questionable whether the fabric of a game like football is negatively affected overall by its use.

But the VAR did get it right in the two decisions that led to Sydney goals in their 3-0 win over Perth. Particularly the decision that has been highlighted, on the goal by Jordy Buijs.

Perth defender Dino Djulbic was never going to stop Buijs' path to goal and made a lame attempt to try to make it look like Sydney striker Bobo was dramatically impeding him. The VAR saw through that, like they should have.

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4 min read
Published 1 May 2017 at 8:11am
By Greg Prichard