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A-League: Tight contest expected in Melbourne

The top four sides on the A-League regular season ladder have progressed to the semi-finals of Finals, with third meeting second when Melbourne Victory take on Wellington Phoenix.

The first leg of their tie takes place at AAMI Park at teatime on Sunday and it looks likely to be something of a cagey affair given the recent results between the two teams.

The winner of this semi-final will face either Sydney FC or Central Coast in the Grand Final, with the reigning champion Mariners having claimed the Premiership and also been crowned AFC Cup winners.

. What: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
. Where:  AAMI Park, Melbourne
. When: 17:00, Sunday 12th May 2024
. How to watch: Paramount+, 10Bold
. Odds:  Melbourne Victory 1.75, Draw 3.75, Wellington Phoenix 4.50

Machach missing after City red card

While the Phoenix players were enjoying a rest, Victory were pushed to the limit in their elimination final by Melbourne City, with Nishan Velupillay netting two minutes from the end of normal time to keep Tony Popovic's side alive.

With the game ending level at 1-1 after extra-time, it was the Victory who prevailed 3-2 on penalties, with goalkeeper Paul Izzo not only saving three spot-kicks, but also converting one himself.

Undoubted player of the match Izzo also denied Tolgay Arslan from the spot during the first half of normal time, while Victory were reduced to ten men when Zinedine Machach was sent off just 37 minutes into the game.

Midfielder Machach was red-carded for an ugly clash with City’s Leo Natel and his punishment is a two-game ban which rules him out of both matches against the Phoenix.

That battling performance will have lifted morale significantly, with Victory having gone into the play-offs on the back of two losses and a draw in their final three regular-season outings.

Popovic’s side failed to score in two of those games and leading scorer Bruno Fornaroli looks to have gone off the boil at just the wrong time, having failed to score in his last four matches after netting five in his previous four.

Fornaroli is 2.10 to score at anytime on Sunday, with the Victory 1.50 to go on and eventually qualify for the Grand Final.

Phoenix need to end AAMI hoodoo

Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano may have his players nicely rested and raring to go, but Wellington need to try and deliver at a venue that has been far from kind to them in the past.

The Nix have not won on any of their last 20 visits to AAMI Park and have not triumphed on the road against the Victory since April 2017, although of course they do no need to win on Sunday.

Italiano’s side head into their first game of Finals having lost just one of their last six matches, with that defeat a narrow 2-1 setback at the Mariners which ultimately decided the destination of the Premiership.

That reverse was followed by a 1-0 win at home to the Victory - Finn Surman netting a late winner - and that result made it one victory and two draws for Wellington in their last three meetings with the Melbourne outfit.

Both of those draws ended 1-1, so it seems reasonable not to expect too many goals in such a high-pressure game on Sunday, with the draw priced at 3.75 and a 1-1 final scoreline available at 7.50.

The Nix are surprisingly as long as 4.50 to win on Sunday, with fit-again Polish striker Oskar Zawada 7.00 to score the final goal of the game, having converted a late penalty in the 3-0 win over Macarthur FC last time out.

Kosta Barbarouses was also on target in that victory to make it two in two games and he is 3.40 to score at anytime at AAMI Park.

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