A John Aloisi goal saw Sydney FC remain in grand final contention after a 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in the first leg of their major semi-final. A night of controversy saw Victory/Mariner's striker Nik Mrdja sent off for elbowing Shannon Cole and Sydney midfielder Brendan Gan not sent off for a shocking tackle on Kevin Muscat.
A poor crowd (18,453) and a shocking pitch (due to rock group AC/DC's recent concerts at Etihad Stadium) didn't do justice to the game, but Aloisi's away goal will see the two teams heading back to Sydney with everything to play for.
Mrdja opening the scoring for the home side with a goal in the 16th minute, before winner of the Johnny Warren medal, Carlos Hernandez, doubled Melbourne's lead. Aloisi then pegged one back, via a Muscat deflection, and the sides went into half time at 2-1.
It was an eventful second half, with Mrdja's sending off and some poor tackles, but neither side could find the net and the game ended with Sydney still one behind.
While Sydney will go into the return leg needing a win, they will be helped by Melbourne's striker crisis. The sending off of Mrdja (and the resulting suspension), combined with the lack of Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse (both already injured) will see them travel up with a very depleted front line.