Melbourne Victory secured a Finals Series berth with a thrilling 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers as both teams finished with 10 men on Saturday night.
Thomas Deng's sumptuous 51st-minute volley put the seal on a rollercoaster clash at AAMI Park that leaves Wanderers outside the top six.
Michael Thwaite and Kosta Barbarouses were earlier dismissed in a frenzied end to the first half, which finished with Besart Berisha restoring a lead that Alvaro Cejudo wiped out only six minutes earlier.
Cejudo's classy goal had restored parity following Leroy George's opener, but Western Sydney lost touch from there and must now beat Brisbane Roar next round to reclaim sixth.
Victory, conversely, momentarily sit third and are assured of post-season football.
STORY OF THE GAME
- CLOSE: Kearyn Baccus' glancing near-post header brushes off the corner of the goal frame.
- SAVE: Vedran Janjetovic pushes over a hot Barbarouses drive.
- SAVE: Chris Ikonomidis weaves through for a one-on-one and seems destined to score, but Lawrence Thomas spreads himself to smother the finish.
- GOAL! George breaks the deadlock with a heavily-deflected free-kick.
- GOAL! Cejudo squares the ledger in first-half stoppage time with a fine finish.
- DUAL RED CARDS! Thwaite receives a second yellow for holding James Donachie at a corner, while Barbarouses is shown a straight red for stomping on Keanu Baccus as Berisha prepared to take the penalty.
- GOAL! Thwaite's infringement means Berisha eventually gets the chance to restore Victory's lead with the last kick of the half.
- GOAL! Deng blasts in a stunning first-time volley within six minutes of the restart.
- POST: George almost kills off the contest, but his shot at the end of a mazy dribble comes back off the upright.
- CHANCES: Rhys Williams heads the wrong side of the post at one end and diverts a Keanu Baccus shot wide at the other.
- SAVES: Thomas denies Jaushua Sotirio and Cejudo in quick succession.
Leroy George, Melbourne Victory 30': 1-0
George's free-kick takes a wicked deflection off Brendan Hamill in the wall and leaves a wrong-footed Janjetovic with no chance.
Alvaro Cejudo, Western Sydney Wanderers 45'+1: 1-1
Steven Lustica wins the ball in a vital area and spreads it to Cejudo in acres of space, the Spaniard dinking a delightfully deft finish over the onrushing Thomas.
Besart Berisha (p), Melbourne Victory 45'+7: 2-1
Thwaite clumsily bundles Donachie to the floor on a corner. After a long delay, a cool-headed Berisha dispatches the spot-kick low to the left.
Thomas Deng, Melbourne Victory 51': 3-1
Blockbusting strike from Deng as he sweetly volleys low and hard across Janjetovic from Terry Antonis' cross.
This article was originally published at: www.a-league.com.au/news/victory-seal-finals-series-spot-action-packed-win-over-wanderers