With the A-League finals series upon us, the excitement has started to rapidly build over who will hold aloft the golden toilet seat in three weeks time.
Opening round of the finals can provide twists, turns and ultimately some of the best performances in A-League history.
James Robinson – Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United, 2007
It may not have been the greatest performance, but it was one of the most memorable.
With the score reading 1-1 at Telstra Dome as it was then, Adelaide were minutes away from a spot in the grand final due to their away goal scored by Travis Dodd. Enter James Robinson. The Englishman was brought on in the 86th minute and was in the right place at the right time to head home a dramatic winner deep into injury time.
This was his first and only goal for Melbourne Victory, but it was significant in that it set up their memorable 6-0 thrashing of United only weeks later in the grand final.
Sasho Petrovski – Central Coast Mariners vs Newcastle Jets, 2008
This performance takes us back to the days when the F3 Derby was one of the biggest derbies on the Australian football calendar.
Newcastle won the first leg of the major semi-final 2-0, leaving the Mariners with their backs against the wall going into a do or die clash in Gosford. Adam Kwasnik was able to pull one back early for Central Coast but as time progressed, the hopes of the Mariners’ spot in the grand final were quickly diminishing. With 15 minutes to play, veteran striker Sasho Petrovski put one home to send it to extra time and with a raucous atmosphere willing them on, he sealed the comeback five minutes into the added 30 minutes.
Of course, it was not to be for the Mariners as the Jets exacted their revenge in the grand final.
Shane Smeltz – Perth Glory vs Melbourne Heart (City), 2012
It cannot be a ‘best of’ series without one of the most prolific strikers to ever grace the A-League.
Shane Smeltz’s performance against Melbourne Heart as they were known back in 2012 was one of the greatest 25 minute bursts that has been seen on an A-League pitch. In the final period of the game, the Kiwi banged home a hat-trick to send Perth into the semi-finals and break Heart’s maiden finals berth. His 2011-12 season was arguably one of his best as he helped the Glory reach their first ever grand final.
However, they were downed controversialy by Brisbane Roar.
Mark Milligan – Melbourne Victory vs Perth Glory, 2013
Let’s change the mood from attackers to one of the defensive-minded driving forces behind Victory’s recent success.
The Socceroo was instrumental in leading Victory to a comeback win over Perth in the first week of the 2013 finals series. Victory were hit by injuries and played rather uninspiring football, seeing them trail 1-0 for much of the game.
However, late on, Victory were given a reprieve as Milligan dispatched a disputed injury time penalty and provided enough spark to lead Victory to a massive win.
Victory were defeated by eventual champions Central Coast Mariners the following week.
Bruno Fornaroli – Melbourne City vs Perth Glory, 2016
To leave out El Tuna‘s brilliance against Perth last season would be almost criminal.
After a record year in his maiden season in the A-League, the Uruguayan smashed home a brilliant double to send City to their first preliminary final. Both goals were first class; a gravity-defying bicycle kick, followed by a classy free kick sealer.
City face Perth again this weekend in the first week of the finals. Can Bruno inspire them again to a win?