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Popovic out to break duck in Victory's ALM decider

Melbourne Victory coach Tony Popovic will tell his players not to treat the A-League Men grand final as destiny, though the club's stunning run through the finals suggests it may well be.

Because if anyone knows what it's like to lose a grand final it's Popovic.

The former Socceroos defender took Western Sydney Wanderers to three grand finals and Perth Glory to another, tasting defeat in all four.

He will get the chance to manage in a fifth decider on Saturday against Central Coast, courtesy of Victory's helter-skelter defeat of Wellington.

Victory were under the pump for long spells against the Phoenix in their semi-final second leg on Saturday night, and under pressure from a 33,297-strong crowd in New Zealand.

Just as they did in the elimination final against Melbourne City, the Victory rallied from the jaws of defeat.

Against City, a 10-man Victory equalised against the reigning premiers before Paul Izzo's inspired penalty shootout, saving three efforts and scoring his own.

Izzo saved another spot kick against Wellington, as well as a follow-up effort, as Victory hung tough.

Victory players celebrating.
Goalkeeper Paul Izzo celebrates the Victory's win in Wellington with striker Bruno Fornaroli. (Marty Melville/AAP PHOTOS)

The Nix, with the benefit of a better record this season and the biggest crowd anywhere in the league, had all the momentum heading into extra time after a 99th-minute equaliser.

Instead, Chris Ikonomidis popped up at the back post from an extra-time corner to give Victory a sense of undeniability this finals series.

"I hope so," Popovic said, smiling, when asked if he felt success was pre-ordained.

"We had to earn tonight. Wellington, they didn't give us an inch tonight. We had to do it the hard way.

"We deserve to be in the grand final and now if we want to win one, we have to earn it again.

"And that'll be the message to the group."

Popovic's own bad grand final luck began in 2013 in the inaugural Wanderers season, when the club won 10 straight to claim the premiership but lost the grand final 2-0 to the Mariners.

The following year, Western Sydney lost in extra time to Brisbane, and in 2016, Adelaide United defeated them 3-1.

After a stint in Turkey, Popovic returned to the A-League with Perth in 2018 and again claimed a premiership - but lost the grand final in a penalty shootout to Sydney FC.

"I've been at that last game a bit," he said, pivoting to his Australia Cup success with the Victory in 2021.

"We won the cup a few years ago so we did win a trophy.

"This club's used to winning trophies and with that comes expectation and our fans, our members, the club, they expect to be challenging and winning trophies.

"That's what Melbourne Victory is.

"It's been a while since the club's been in a grand final for many different reasons and now we have a chance to bring some silverware back to our club."