Sam shines as Victory runs out of puff
Melbourne Victory's stellar W-League campaign ended on Sunday with a Sam Kerr-inspired fightback from Perth Glory securing a thrilling late semi-final win.
Victory super sub Grace Maher sent the game into extra-time with a goal deep into stoppage time before Kerr scored twice, producing her trademark backflip upon completing her hat-trick in front of a healthy AAMI Park crowd in excess of 4000.
Glory will be aiming to win its first W-League title, away to either Brisbane or Sydney FC, while it was a bitter blow to Jeff Hopkins' Victory, making it the third straight year that the top team has failed to reach the grand final.
Kerr and US defender, former Chicago Red Stars teammate Samantha Johnson embarked on an enthralling physical contest, with cameos from fellow Victory stopper and Matildas teammate Laura Alleway.
Johnson played on the edge and Kerr's influence and intelligence led to the Victory defender's 98th minute dismissal - just after the superstar had put Glory ahead - which killed off Victory's hopes.
"It's a final everything's on the line. It can get a bit feisty but that's what we like playing for,'' Kerr said.
"It just fell our way. People stood up today so I'm just so pumped for the whole team."
STELLAR VICTORY START
Midfielder Christine Nairn's habit of scoring outrageous goals continued, arrowing a cross-cum-shot over keeper Eliza Campbell's head and into the corner within 90 seconds of kick off.
Kerr was involved in everything for Glory thereafter, as she slid in several killer balls for fellow attackers Rachel Hill and Alyssa Mautz and had a penalty appeal waved away after contact from Ella Mastrantonio.
Glory felt even more aggrieved just before halftime when Hill's cross clearly struck Alleway's arm, although referee Rachel Mitchenson waved play on.
OUT OF STEAM
The schedule hurt Victory, after travelling to WA last Friday before Tuesday's catch-up game in Canberra.
They took a further hit with keeper Casey Dumont forced off at the break after failing a concussion test, with Bethany Mason-Jones coming on for just her eighth W-League appearance.
She came out confidently within 30 seconds of her introduction, but Glory kept probing.
Glory midfielder Leticia McKenna sent in a dangerous ball that Alleway failed to clear.
Kerr didn't need a second invitation, pouncing before Teigen Allen and Mason-Jones could close her down.
Kerr then dragged Johnson out of position, receiving the ball wide on the right and looped in a clever cross, that sailed over Mason-Jones - albeit aided via a slight deflection - and was headed in by Hill.
Victory had already made three subs before extra-time, while Nairn was cramping early in extra-time.
Nairn's set pieces caused havoc, sending in a zipping ball deep into stoppage time, which Glory failed to clear, as Alleway headed it into the danger zone and Maher glanced it home.
But as Victory players fatigued and space opened up, Kerr seized her moment.
Surrounded by Victory shirts, Kerr remained composed to loop the ball over the keeper and before a desperate Angela Beard could clear off the line.
Kerr then sidefooted in the 107th minute sealer, in a move she started, sending the visitors into delirium.
To her credit, Kerr was the last player off the pitch, some 45 minutes after the final whistle after signing hundreds of autographs and posing for photos with delighted fans.
MELBOURNE VICTORY 2 (Nairn 2, Maher 90+4)
PERTH GLORY 4 (Kerr 72, 97, 107, Hill 86)
VICTORY (4-2-3-1): Dumont (Mason-Jones 46); Allen (Ayres 109), Alleway, Johnson, Beard; Mastrantonio, Weatherholt (Maher 64); Barbieri (Cooney-Cross 83), Nairn, Gielnik; Dowie.
GLORY (4-3-3): Campbell; Rigby, Naughton, K Carroll, Gale; Stanton, May, McKenna (Doeglas 117); Mautz (S Carroll 114), Kerr, Hill.
RED CARDS: Johnson 98.
DAVUTOVIC'S PLAYER OF THE MATCH
SAM KERR (GLORY): She caused havoc all afternoon and won the game off her own boot, scoring a hat-trick while setting up the other.