Melbourne City FC will have its sights set on qualifying for a third consecutive A-League Men Grand Final when it hosts Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.
This follows the first Semi Final leg which was played midweek in Adelaide, neither side able to find the back of the net as the contest remains 0-0 heading into the second leg.
Here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The crucial first goal
We were kept on the edge of our seat throughout the 90 minutes at Coopers Stadium, waiting for that all important first goal that ultimately – never came.
It was the home side who came out fastest on the night, before City were able to wrestle back the momentum after 20 or so minutes. The likes of Jamie Maclaren, Matthew Leckie, Andrew Nabbout and Connor Metcalfe all had decent chances on goal throughout the match, but a good performance in goal from Adelaide keeper Joe Gauci, along with the woodwork, kept them at bay.
Despite an ultimately solid performance across the 90 minutes, City will be hoping for a reversal in fortunes in front of goal. Ideally, a start like City’s last home game would be perfect. We’re sure you’re recall the Premiership winning night where the boys found the back of the net twice inside 10 minutes.
Given there’s no away goals rule in place, a draw would see extra time, followed by penalties if required, so here’s hoping for some damage to be done early to ease the nerves around AAMI Park.
Survival of the fittest?
It’s felt like City has been in action every few days for virtually the whole season, but these Semi Finals may be one of the first times it has been coming into a fixture the more rested of the two teams.
Given the deserved weekend off after being crowned Premiers, by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around City would’ve played just once in 13 days – a well-deserved break after a gruelling schedule both domestically and in the AFC Champions League.
By comparison, the second leg will be Adelaide’s third fixture in a week after having won its way into the Semi Finals on the first weekend of Finals.
Patrick Kisnorbo’s squad has proved time and time again over the last couple of seasons that it is one of the fittest sides going around, so with such a light playing schedule compared to what it had been used to all season, expect City to come out firing in front of the home crowd.
The battle between the sticks
A big factor of the midweek leg ending in a scoreless draw can certainly be attributed to the men in goal putting in a pair of strong shifts.
While Tom Glover wasn’t required to do anything spectacular, he looked solid when called into action and was deserving of his clean sheet.
Up the other end of the pitch, Gauci had a far busier night and pulled off a couple of crucial saves to deny Metcalfe in the first half and Leckie in the second.
City’s attack will be eager for another shot at the Reds defence, this time in front of their home crowd, while Glover will be looking to take confidence from Wednesday night and make it back-to-back clean sheets on the big stage.