Izzo the hero as Victory beat City in ALM classic

Joey Lynch |

Goalie Paul Izzo is swamped by Victory teammates after his penalty shootout heroics against City.
Goalie Paul Izzo is swamped by Victory teammates after his penalty shootout heroics against City.

Paul Izzo has inspired Melbourne Victory to one of the greatest-ever A-League Men escapes as they rose from the ashes to beat Melbourne City on penalties and advance into a semi-final showdown with Wellington. 

Goalkeeper Izzo saved three City penalties and scored one himself to secure his side’s dramatic elimination final win, with Victory prevailing 3-2 in the shoot-out after scores were level 1-1 after extra time.

He was mobbed by teammates as the Victory contingent of the 21,358 in attendance at AAMI Park on Sunday night exploded into raptures after he denied James Jeggo’s penalty to win it. 

The 28-year-old had previously saved efforts from Terry Antonis and Callum Talbot, with Roderick Miranda and Damien Da Silva also converting their spot kicks for Victory and sparing the retiring Leigh Broxham any blushes for missing his attempt.

Izzo
Paul Izzo scores with his penalty attempt in the shootout. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

Even before the kicks were taken Izzo had done his bit to ensure his side would have the edge, hurling away City keeper Jamie Young’s notes on Victory’s potential penalty takers.

“A bottle may have got launched into the crowd,” he laughed to reporters post-game.

“I even checked his towel and he had paper in there as well, so lucky I found that too. “I mean, it’s just part of the game. It is what it is. I’m sure he would have done the same.”

Tony Popovic’s side will now host the Phoenix in the first of a two-legged header at AAMI Park next Sunday evening, with Sydney FC to host the Central Coast Mariners on Friday evening. 

Leading after Samuel Souprayen’s 29th-minute header and Victory not producing a shot on target since the 37th-minute dismissal of Zinedine Machach, City spent much of the game laying siege to the Victory penalty area and should have had the game wrapped up well inside regular time.

But with his side somehow still alive, a desperate ball lofted down the left by Victory skipper Miranda found the run of Kasey Bos, with the younger brother of former City standout Jordy sending in a cross that found an open Nishan Velupillay for an 87th minute equaliser.

City had previously had a 17th-minute Tolgay Arslan penalty saved by Izzo and used their one-player advantage to outshoot Victory 22 shots to nine during regular time but, instead, were now being forced to extra time.

“The game should have been done,” said City interim coach Aurelio Vidmar, who confirmed post-game that talks were underway for his return next season.

“Everyone always [asks] why can’t you just absolutely smash teams when they go down to 10 men, but the reality is you lose discipline, if you lose structure, then you’re going to lose a battle.

“And we did for periods of that second half.”

Arslan
Izzo saves a penalty from Tolgay Arslan in the first half. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

City renewed pressure across the added football, but Victory was able to hold out, Izzo ending the 120 minutes by saving eight of City’s 30 total attempts and ensuring the game went to a shootout where he could emerge as a hero.

“The players were amazing,” said Popovic.

“The young players who came on all made an impact, and the leaders all stood up in a big game. Very proud of the group.”

AAP