City end United dream to reach A-League GF

A decade after their debut, Melbourne City are into their first A-League grand final but they needed all their quality to see off Western United.

JAMIE MACLAREN.
JAMIE MACLAREN. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

It took 10 seasons, millions of dollars of investment and even a change of name before Melbourne City finally secured their place in an A-League grand final.

After finishing the regular season in second place, City maintained their form to outlast Western United 2-0 in Wednesday's semi-final thanks to a second-half penalty from Jamie Maclaren and a late Tomoki Imai own goal.

City narrowly had the better of proceedings at Bankwest Stadium but they needed a contentiously-awarded penalty to eventually quell leg-weary United - who were backing up from a gruelling elimination final against Brisbane Roar just three days earlier.

Formerly known as Melbourne Heart, City joined the A-League in 2010 and have benefited from the backing of a company whose portfolio of clubs is headlined by Manchester City.

It was a case of casting aside some demons for City who had lost four of their past five finals matches.

"In the second half we corrected a few things, our level of aggressiveness was increased and in this kind of game it is critical that you score first," City coach Erick Mombaerts said.

"We showed our strength in the second half and how much we wanted the win.

"Western United defended well, were defensively well organised and that was difficult to overcome."

Maclaren correctly had a first-half strike ruled out for offside while Florin Berenguer could have scored with an effort from a tight angle early in the second half.

But it wasn't until the spot kick was awarded for minimal contact from United defender Aaron Calver on Maclaren that City gained the ascendancy.

City have earned a historical reputation as having a soft underbelly but they looked sturdy after taking the lead on 68 minutes.

"Today we showed we are strong mentally and this season has showed that this team can do very well," Mombaerts said.

"We have had a very good season and I'm very happy that it is the first time we reach the final, but now we have one more game to win.

"It is not enough to reach the final, now we have to win this."

Mombaerts confirmed French midfielder Berenguer is carrying a calf injury but will be fit for the grand final.

United coach Mark Rudan indicated his team's sixth match in 19 days was not a factor in their defeat, nor was the absence of veteran central defender Andrew Durante.

"I'm astounded by how well they backed up, and I didn't see any fatigue during the match," Rudan said.

"We had a great chance to score with (Steven) Lustica and there are moments that go against you with the penalty

"As a coach I think Erick has changed the perceptions of Melbourne City.

"They will be hard to beat (in the grand final)."