Le Fondre on the spot as Sydney-City ends all square
Sydney FC have kept their A-League Men grand final hopes alive after an Adam Le Fondre penalty helped them salvage a 1-1 draw against premiers Melbourne City.
Socceroos forward Mathew Leckie put City ahead at Allianz Stadium in the first half of this semi-final clash, before a retaken penalty ensured Sydney will head to AAMI Park for next week's second leg with everything still to play for.
In the 64th minute on Friday, Sydney midfielder Anthony Caceres was awarded a penalty but could only fire his effort at City keeper Tom Glover.
Right-back Callum Talbot cleared the ball to safety but replays showed the City man had encroached - albeit slightly - during Caceres' run-up.
Referee Adam Kersey ordered a retake and Le Fondre stepped up to score his sixth goal in as many games and keep the tie alive.
"It's the correct call," said City boss Rado Vidosic, who was without midfielder Aiden O'Neill due to back spasms.
"I don't think that we played as well as we can probably, as well as we played over the last few games.
"Maybe (City) having a week off, they (Sydney) were a bit more match fit than us.
"The second half was an arm wrestle ... it's 1-1 and there is another 90 or 120 minutes to come in Melbourne."
City may have finished 17 points above the Sky Blues in the regular season but Sydney had the visitors on the back foot through the opening 15 minutes with Le Fondre having an effort disallowed for offside.
City had few openings but when Jordan Bos streaked down the left, Sydney defender Rhyan Grant was forced into a foul that gave the visitors a prime opportunity, just outside the Sky Blues' box.
Valon Berisha floated in the free kick and Leckie was able to climb high and head past Andrew Redmayne in the 17th minute.
City continued to probe and should have doubled their lead heading into the interval, with Curtis Good and Richard van der Venne snatching at chances.
As they did in last week's elimination final win over Western Sydney Wanderers, Steve Corica's side began the second half with an added zip and as they pushed forward City defender Nuno Reis clumsily felled Caceres in the box.
The Sky Blues were emboldened by their equaliser and nearly took the lead 90 seconds later when Grant tapped in a Le Fondre cross, only for a VAR check to show the English forward was offside.
Crucially, though, their hopes of a grand final berth remain alive with Corica confident his side could knock the premiers over on their home deck.
"We created more and defended well but we showed great character coming back," Corica said.
"These boys have got great belief at the moment. That's another game without a loss, seven in a row.
"So we go down there next week, with a belief that we're going to win.
"Our form has been really good away from home and it's a tough place to go, but it's a one-off game.
"We won't give up and we'll keep fighting until we get the result."