Melbourne City thrash Sydney, make A-League Men decider
Dynasty-hunting Melbourne City have returned to their irresistible best to charge to a 4-0 rout of 10-man Sydney FC and power into a fourth consecutive A-League Men grand final high on confidence.
Friday's semi-final tie was locked at 1-1 from the first leg and after Sydney's Max Burgess was sent off in the 20th minute, Curtis Good's 37th-minute header and Jack Rodwell's 59th-minute own goal sent City on their way at AAMI Park.
Marco Tilio added a third in the 67th minute while Richard van der Venne looped a fourth home in the 82nd to seal a 5-1 win on aggregate and a shot at a premiership-championship double.
Rado Vidosic's City will play either Central Coast or Adelaide United, who play on Saturday night, in the June 3 decider at CommBank Stadium.
City have won the past three premiers plates and also claimed the championship in 2020-21.
"We did not play as well as we wished to play in Sydney and we had a good week of preparation," Vidosic told reporters.
"We identified what we didn't do well, we made some changes, brought some speed, brought some fresh legs and I think that was the key for us.
"We were a little bit more patient in the build-up, we kept the ball for a little bit longer, forced them to defend deeper in numbers.
"They played a lot of long goal kicks, we won most of them so there was a constant pressure on them.
"Defensively we were much, much better today than we were last Friday and we created more than enough chances - there could have been more goals."
The home side regained the excellent Aiden O'Neill and recalled Andrew Nabbout and Thomas Lam while Sydney winger Robert Mak didn't travel and was replaced by youngster Adrian Segecic.
With Socceroos coach Graham Arnold watching, the game opened up when Burgess recklessly slid in on Marco Tilio, sinking his studs into the winger's calf.
Referee Shaun Evans initially only booked Burgess but after a VAR review, upgraded the yellow card to a straight red.
"That was the turning point," Sydney coach Steve Corica said.
"We tried to see the half out at 0-0, then we conceded at the set piece which obviously killed us.
"I just walked in and he (Burgess) apologised. He let the team down obviously, getting sent off.
"It's difficult with 10 men so it's more that he needs to apologise to the boys."
Corica also lamented O'Neill not receiving any card for catching Luke Brattan in the face with his elbow early in the second half.
The defeat ends Sydney's up-and-down season, where they started slowly and piled pressure on Corica, but finished fifth and won an elimination final.
"From the halfway mark we've probably been the second-best team. We picked up two points less than City from the halfway mark," Corica said.
"That's our first loss in eight games, so it showed how good we were towards the back end of the season."