Hyundai A-League Team of the Week: Semi Finals
If two stunning Semi Finals are a guide, we're in for an absolutely unmissable Hyundai A-League 2019 Grand Final.
Perth Glory and Sydney FC will square off at Optus Stadium on Sunday, May 19 after qualifying in wildly different circumstances.
The Premiers survived the high tension of an extraordinary penalty shootout against a plucky Adelaide United, while the Sky Blues hit Melbourne Victory for six.
We've picked out the best performers from an incredible couple of matches and ordered them into our Team of the Week!
Liam Reddy (Perth Glory)
When the dust eventually settles, Friday’s epic clash in WA will likely be remembered as the ‘Reddy Semi-Final'.
Certainly, Perth goalkeeper Liam Reddy sealed his legacy as one of the Hyundai A-League’s fiercest competitors after dragging his side kicking and screaming through a topsy-turvy shoot out and into the big dance.
Reddy denied Adelaide's Isaias, Baba Diawara, Nikola Mileusnic and Nathan Konstandopoulos from the spot and scored one himself to book Tony Popovic's side a spot in next Sunday's Grand Final against Sydney FC.
It is hard to believe that next weekend's decider is the first ever for Reddy, a 37-year-old veteran with 278 appearances for seven different Hyundai A-League clubs.
Michael Marrone (Adelaide United)
The Reds were seemingly down and out twice against Perth. But Michael Marrone simply refused to concede defeat, and the inspirational centre back was at the heart of his team's intrepid performance.
Marrone led his team in attempted tackles (four), duels won (13), clearances (six) and interceptions (two).
His extra-time equaliser in the 114th minute was forged of sheer resolve and determination and had Adelaide prevailed on penalties, that header might have etched a permanent position among the club's most iconic goals.
Aaron Calver (Sydney FC)
He might be on his way out of Sydney FC in the near future, but Aaron Calver is certainly fulfilling his commitment to the club at present.
The maturing defender was magnificent against Melbourne Victory, curtailing Ola Toivonen's impact via his 11 clearances and popping up with the vital opener in the third minute.
Form will be needed to quell the likes of Andy Keogh at Optus Stadium and Calver has it in spades.
Shane Lowry (Perth Glory)
Perth were uncharacteristically nervous throughout intervals of Friday's crazy encounter. Shane Lowry was a key man in ensuring the Glory did not dissolve under the pressure.
Lowry won three tackles, ten duels and made 13 clearances to keep the Reds at bay.
Popovic has an abundance of formidable centre half options at his disposal, but Lowry showed why he is clearly indispensable no matter the configuration of Perth’s defence.
Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC)
Fitness concerns? What fitness concerns?
Rhyan Grant made a mockery of the doubts over his hamstring as Sydney FC gave Melbourne Victory a truly torrid time at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Tireless, tidy and a never-ending nuisance to any opposition side's left flank, the marauding right-back brought his very best to the second Semi Final.
He was on the scene for the opener, delivered the cross for the third and contributed to many more meaningful moments on Sunday night.
Ryan Kitto (Adelaide United)
It seems a lifetime ago now, but Ryan Kitto produced arguably the clutch moment of the 2018/19 campaign to send Adelaide into extra time on Friday.
Kitto’s 94th-minute equaliser - with virtually the last kick of the game – was the very epitome of composure, as the Adelaide fullback cleanly dispatched Joel Chianese’s headed clearance into the bottom corner.
Moreover, on a relatively fruitless night for the Adelaide strike force, Kitto was the Reds’ driving force and invariably involved in his side's best attacking moments of the game.
He took five shots at goal (an equal game-high) and made 10 crosses, with one of those 10 the superb delivery for Michael Marrone’s crashing extra-time header.
Milos Ninkovic (Sydney FC)
There was no more fitting source of the last of Sydney FC's six goals than their polished playmaker.
When Milos Ninkovic dispatched Josh Brillante's carefully executed cross in the 88th minute in Kogarah, it was the culmination of an influential performance on and off the ball.
Ninkovic had registered an assist 20 minutes earlier, slipping a perfectly weighted pass into Adam Le Fondre's path, and Victory were never able to contain him.
He also tallied a game-high five interceptions, gained possession more times than any other player, and passed at a success rate of 87 per cent.
Brandon O'Neill (Sydney FC)
The main man in the Sydney FC engine room.
When Brandon O'Neill is on, which is often the case, it's almost impossible to get on top of the Sky Blues, as Victory discovered on Sunday night.
The midfielder unsurprisingly finished with the highest number of tackles in the match (six) and his 36 passes in the opposition half kept the visitors firmly on the back foot.
Diego Castro (Perth Glory)
He trailed off in extra time and saw a tame spot-kick saved by Paul Izzo in the shoot-out, but Diego Castro was imperious over the course of the 90 minutes.
The Spaniard had opened the scoring following a gorgeous interchange with Chris Ikonomidis, and added a second – seemingly the match-sealer – midway through the second half.
At times, Castro was at his unplayable best. A Grand Final win next weekend would surely cement his status as one of the Hyundai A-League’s greatest ever.
Chris Ikonomidis (Perth Glory)
There are few young Australian talents like Chris Ikonomidis. Against Adelaide, the Glory forward offered another glimpse of his maturity, versatility and match-turning ability.
The Caltex Socceroo was twice on show to provide for Castro, first with a lovely defence splitting pass, and then with a determined burst forward on the counter attack.
Ikonomidis was involved in everything, contesting a match-high 32 duels.
Adam Le Fondre (Sydney FC)
Sydney FC's hotshot striker said after the mauling of Victory that he felt such a performance had long been coming.
His eye for goal made it possible.
Le Fondre won and dutifully dispatched the penalty for the home side's fourth goal and then finished with aplomb when played in behind by Ninkovic.
It's 23 goals in all competitions now for the Englishman, and he has the chance to add silverware to an exceptional debut campaign in Australia.