- Ninkovic hits winning penalty in decider at Allianz Stadium
- Berisha’s opener cancelled out by Grant
It wasn’t pretty – it was never going to be on that pitch – but Sydney’s victory was no less thrilling for it. Did they deserve to win? On the night, it’s difficult to make a case for either side as outright winners – it was that close. In terms of the season, though, there can be no doubt for football traditionalists that the right side won in the end – purely for the way they’ve dominated the campaign from start to finish. It’s a tough, tough defeat for Victory but they can have no shame in the way they played, and but for the lucky draw that is penalties, they might have been celebrating even as I type this.
Anyway that’s it from me for the night – and for the season as it happens. I’ll catch you again in a few months.
Graham Arnold was understandably delighted with his side’s win. “It always seems to take me three years to do this – it was the same at the Mariners… We’ve got a fantastic group of boys and I’m so happy with them and proud of them… it’s not the best way to win, but it’s better than losing. I’ve been on the end of that. My heart goes out to Melbourne Victory.”
Brosque back next year
And Alex Brosque has confirmed he’s staying for at least another year too after rumours of retirement. “I will (be back), it’s a great team. Most of the team are staying – if not all. I’ll be here again next year.”
For the cherry on the cake, Milos Ninkovic has given a strong indication that he’ll be back with Sydney FC next season. “I like these guys too much and I would like to see this team in the Champions League next year, I can’t promise anything but probably I will stay,” he said.
There’s more to come but check out the match report here.
Captain Brosque speaking to the crowd now – thanking the fans and the players. “I don’t think we got anything less than we deserved,” he says before turning to Arnie. “The way you get these boys to lift every single week. It’s been incredible.”
Well they got their in the end – as did my laptop, which seemed to crack under the pressure of penalties. Hats off to Victory who defied the predictions to give Sydney a real scare – they got their tactics spot on for the night and there was nothing to choose between them on the night. On the balance of the season though, no one could deny Sydney were deserving winners.
Georgevski is named Joe Marston medal winner – much to the chagrin of the celebrating Sydney fans. He was outstanding though. Sydney going up for the presentation now.
Ninkovic – who else! – fires it home! Sydney have won!
Vukovic guesses correctly to deny Rojas! Ninkovic will have the chance to win it for Sydney.
O’Neill puts Sydney back in front.
Valeri misses. Sydney are back in it!
Carney bangs it home – Sydney not letting it slip away.
Victory make the most of that miss. They’ve got their noses in front.
Wilkinson hits it wide – Victory have an opening.
Troisi cool as you like into the roof of the net.
Brosque sends the keeper the wrong way with a low strike into the bottom right
The huddles are over, the players are ready. A chance now for the keepers to become heroes. Sydney to go first – Brosque the man stepping forward.
We’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned shootout folks. Expect to hear the phrases “it’s a lottery” and “a cruel way to lose” shortly.
120 mins: Sydney win a free-kick and the danger passes. Not long until that final whistle.
119 mins: I can’t see a goal coming now – it’s actually been a game of very few chances, despite both sides going for the win. Ingham breaks through but his final shot is blocked and goes for a corner. Last chance for a winner?
116 mins: Victory have only made one substitution so far – which is as confusing (tactically speaking) as it is impressive (physically speaking).
114 mins: Carney with a clear chance, but he skews it wide from just inside the box. Should have done better. Ryall comes on for Buijs, who picked up an injury a couple of minutes ago.
111 mins: The fans are roaring the players on during a much-needed break in play. There’s still time for a twist – but penalties are looming large.
109 mins: Some tired legs out there. And some tired hands in here. Shout out to all my blogging brothers – there’s a chorus of cracking knuckles at laptops from Sydney to Melbourne. Say what you like about the quality of the game, the level of focus and commitment has been outstanding. By rights they should all be out on their feet by now.
107 mins: Oof! So, so close! Troisi cracks a first-time shot off the post and it bounces to safety. Where did that come from?
106mins: I should’ve saved the “Long and Winding Road” reference from my preamble for now. This is all about endurance. Neither side is backing down.
A Berisha header is well saved by Vukovic and that’s it for the half.
105+3 mins: Sydney finishing the end of the 15 mins strongly, but they still can’t find a way through. Rojas goes down and Zullo goes in the book – thought it was a bit harsh myself (he won the ball) but I seem to be in a minority.
103 mins: Starting to get the feeling that if there’s going to be a winner, it’ll come from a mistake. A fair few tired legs out there. O’Neill makes the latest poor pass – hitting it straight to Troisi. Victory fail to make the most of it though.
101 mins: Wilkinson still struggling. Khalfallah comes on for Ingham – that’s the last Victory have seen of their veteran. Off to pastures new next season.
99 mins: Georgevski with a Di Canio-esque volley that slices off his boot to safety – much to the delight of the Sydney fans. The danger doesn’t pass though, Victory get a free-kick that’s chipped deep into the box – for a moment it looks dangerous, but the linesman’s flag is raised. Wilkinson goes down under a challenge from Vukovic. That’s the second time the Sydney shotstopper has cleaned out his own man.
97 mins: Berisha gets a free header in the box – but he doesn’t know much about it, the ball ricocheting off a teammate’s boot and hitting him in the face. Ingham is ready to come on for Victory, who haven’t made a substitution yet.
95 mins: Victory being allowed to play it around in their own defence. Highly unusual for Sydney not to apply at least a little pressure. Victory win a free-kick deep in Sky Blue territory.
93 mins: Strange to see Sydney not pressing as much as they usually do high up the pitch – tiredness or tactics? Carney almost breaks through but plays a poor ball towards Matt Simon that’s easily cut out. It looked like it might have hit a divot.
91mins: Here we go again. Simon goes down under a challenge from Baro, who won the ball fair and square. It’ll be interesting to see the tactics for the next 30 minutes. Will Victory settle for penalties?
Time to take a quick breather – and maybe a shower because that was a pretty dirty 45 minutes.
90+2mins: Who do we fancy in extra time then? Considering they brag about their fitness so much, you’d have to pick the Sky Blues – but then everyone picked the Sky Blues before the game and there’s been nothing between them. Maybe Victory’s decision to take it down a gear and save some stamina in the second half wasn’t so daft after all.
89 mins: Well both teams have thrown everything at each other – including the odd elbow – but it looks like we’re heading to extra time. Carney tries to skip clear down the right but he’s tackled well. Four minutes of added time.
87 mins: It’s been trench warfare out there people, possibly because the pitch does actually resemble a trench in various parts. More elbow-on-face action, though admittedly it wasn’t intentional from Brosque.
85 mins: Zullo goes down after being cracked in the back of the head by his own keeper. Sydney aren’t hanging around though, they race up the other end to put pressure on the Victory defence. A free-kick relieves the pressure.
82 mins: Here we go. Matt Simon is coming on for Bobo. I’m sure the cool, calm head of Simon will stop things from getting out of hand *clears throat loudly*
79 mins: Excellent goalkeeping from Vukovic to shepherd out Troisi. Stood his ground well in a dangerous position. Neither side seems to keen on extra time. Zullo goes in hard on Rojas sparking a sideline confrontation. Graham Arnold isn’t happy.
77 mins: Geria goes in the book for a challenge on Ninkovic. It’d be interesting to see how many of today’s bookings have involved Sydney’s star man.
75 mins: Victory have to be careful now, Sydney have got their tails up and are looking to finish this off in the 90… no sooner have I typed that than Troisi is played in by Berisha, but he scoops the ball over the bar under pressure.
71 mins: It was only ever going to take one chance for Sydney – they’ve been so clinical all year. Victory need to clear their heads and get back into this, they need to find the same intensity they had in the first half. All the momentum with the hosts at the minute.
68 mins: Grant pounces on a rebound to fire home the equaliser from close range! Excellent anticipation as several players stood and stared.
66 mins: A cracking ball into the box from Zullo wins a corner. Wilkinson swings it in but Buijs heads it clear. Sydney starting to turn the screw but time is running out.
64 mins: This is going to be a fascinating final 25 minutes. Sydney have handled everything thrown at them this season – but this is another level of pressure. Victory almost break through but Rojas is offside when he’s played through. Poor decision making from the Victory man, he had time to check his run.
61 mins: Better from Sydney, Carney making an immediate impact during a bit of a goalmouth scramble but Victory get it away. Thirty minutes to go. Victory’s tactic of slowing the game down has worked well so far, conserving stamina as we reach end game. It’s still very risky to invite Sydney onto you though.
59 mins: Holsoko comes off for Carney as Graham Arnold looks to shake things up.
57 mins: It’s all smiles from the Victory fans who are savouring this scoreline. Almost an hour gone and Sydney have been frustrated so far. They haven’t really created much at all in terms of clear chances.
55 mins: Troisi with a cheeky chip from just inside the Sydney half… but it sails straight to Vukovic.
54 mins: Yellow card for Valeri for going through the back of Ninkovic. He can have no excuses… although the tough tackling has kept Sydney’s star man relatively quiet.
50 mins: Risky move from Victory. If it’s a deliberate tactic to calm the game down – it’ll give Sydney heart and more time to probe forward. The Sky Blues almost seize on a Geria mistake but a deflection steers the ball away from the onrushing strikers. Holosko tries to curl one over the keeper but it was always rising. No problem for Thomas.
48 mins: The intensity has definitely gone down a notch after that blood-and-guts opening 45 minutes. Not sure if that’s a deliberate move or just a result of a few tired legs.
46mins: Victory get us under way. Not quite the push-and-shove of the start of the first half but still a bit of niggle. Bit of an arm-wrestle in the middle so far.
“I’m in the slightly awkward position of not really being that fond of either manager and support the Roar but to see Berisha score has tipped my hand Victory’s way. The man is a phenomenon. I also predict a red card before an hour is up.”
Phil Withall via email
The way that half finished I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was a red at some stage – although the referee has handled the pressure well, keeping tempers on the right side of boiling point with a calm hand.
There you go folks, an intense first 45 minutes comes to an end and Victory have their noses in front. Expect to see Sydney the second-half specialists throw everything at them in the next 45. Catch you in 15.
45+2 mins: Looks like Victory are going into the sheds a goal to the good as the last few minutes descend into a midfield scrap.
45 mins: Brillante in the book now for a late challenge on Khalfallah, who screams in agony… but jumps up again quick as you like when the FK is given. The ref has handled the pressure well so far.
44 mins: Sydney finally starting to get on top as the half comes to an end – to be expected considering the intensity Victory started the game. Muscat’s team have been pressing all over the park and it’s worked a treat, but it takes a toll on the legs. They just need to see out these last few minutes.
42 mins: Georgevski with a cool chest down to his keeper just when Sydney were looking dangerous. Calm as you like.
40 mins: This is getting a bit tetchy now. An odd mix of questionable tackles and players falling over a little too easily are causing disquiet in the stands and on the pitch… but Gillett is keeping his whistle quiet. Not a bad job in the circumstances.
38 mins: Now how is that little dust-up going to affect the game? Well it’s a case of “as you were” with Troisi charging into the box and winning a corner. Rojas’s cross into the box is poor though and goes straight to the keeper.
36 mins: Hold on…. Holosko has gone in the book too. Must have been a VAR decision as he’s clearly shown wiping his hand in Troisi’s face. Ironically Broxham escapes scot free. VAR continues its creep into other facets of the game.
35 mins: It’s boiling over! Shirt grabbing, yelling, handbags flying everywhere – all sparked by a poor challenge from Broxham. Referee Gillett takes a moment as the heat dies out of the situation. In the end Ninkovic goes in the book, as does Troisi.
33 mins: A warning for Grant after a clumsy challenge. I think I’ve written that sentence in every Sydney match this season.
31 mins: Victory still the better side as we go past the half-hour mark… although every time Sydney break they look dangerous. One slip and they’ll seize on it – they’ve had that sort of season.
27 mins: Well it’s not the start we were expecting but Victory’s ascendence has certainly made the match more intriguing. The ball almost falls for Rojas in the box but his touch has deserted him a little today. He looks lacking in confidence – not ideal for Victory as they seem to be picking him out regularly.
24 mins: Well it’s been a frantic few minutes and now Khalfallah has gone down off the ball … although the replays suggest he’s made a meal of some minor contact. Sydney FC still look calm though, as well they might – they’ve been in this position before and come out of it smiling.
22 mins: Khalfalla goes in the book for an elbow on Grant while challenging for a high ball. The Victory fans don’t care, scarves are swinging and they’re in fine voice.
21 mins: Berisha! He’s done it again – another grand final goal for the veteran striker, shrugging off two markers to create space then drilling it low past the keeper to open the scoring. Just when Sydney were starting to look dangerous.
18 mins: More pressure from Sydney, Holosko aaaalmost lays it up for Bobo for a tap-in but Victory hastily smother the danger. Warning signs for Muscat’s men.
16 mins: Good keeping from Thomas who comes charging out to stop Zullo getting a clear shot. Seconds later, a wicked cross from Zullo almost catches out the Victory defence, who scramble it behind for a corner. Better from Sydney.
12 mins: First decent chance goes Victory’s way. Khalfallah with a killer ball to Rojas into the box – but he opts to pull it back rather than attempt to smash it home. They get a corner out of it but Sydney deal with it comfortably and the danger passes.
9 mins: Poor ball into the box from Rojas just when it looked like Sydney were on the back foot. Khalfallah didn’t even bother trying to reclaim it, the ball was well overhit. They need to make the most of these spells of pressure, they don’t come around often against Sydney.
7 mins: Some good shielding from Georgevski to snuff out Sydney’s first sniff of goal. Victory have started the game with a very high intensity, it’ll be interesting to see how Sydney respond. The Sky Blues have been there and done that all season though, nothing seems to affect them in terms of belief in their game plan.
5 mins: Rojas seems to be the go-to man for Victory early on, a couple of deep balls already directed his way. Nothing Sydney can’t handle but it’s a promising start from the visitors nonetheless.
3 mins: Safety first from Zullo who boots it into the stands after fluffling his initial clearance. Early pressure from Victory but there’s no space in that imperious Sydney defence and eventually the ball floats harmlessly to the keeper.
1min: Peeeeep! And we’re off. And welcome to the match Georgevski, who gets a boot to the thigh from Brosque. Early fireworks. A prickly start from both sides as they look to grab the game early.
Looks like there’s been a flare in the Sydney end but otherwise no real crowd trouble. I’m sure certain sections of the media will lap it up though. Sydney FC are going to kick us off. Let the games begin.
As the strains of Advance Australia Fair die away, Allianz Stadium erupts in noise.
Not long to go now.
Fireworks, smoke and roars around the ground as the players finally stop teasing us and jog out onto the pitch. Not long to go now… though admittedly I said that about 30 minutes ago.
Anyone else hear the Jaws theme when you see Besart Berisha warming up? Can he score in yet another grand final? It’d take a brave man to bet against him.
The decibel level in Allianz Stadium has been raised to Spinal Tap levels. Not long now, the fans are getting twitchy. Still no sign of the players on the pitch yet … can’t be long though.
A lot of the predictions for this clash have quite rightly centred around the battle between Johnny Warren Medallist Milos Ninkovic and Carl Valeri. After a decent enough first season, Milos 2.0 has been a revelation this campaign and if Victory can’t contain him today, it’s hard to see how they will compete. In Valeri, however, they have one of the few A-League players with the ability and experience to do just that. Just because he’s capable of doing it, however, doesn’t mean he will. In top form, Ninkovic is unplayable.
Well the pitch might be “meh” but it’s perfect football weather – blue skies with just a tinge of cold in the air. The stadium is a sea of blue, filling up well in the build-up to kick-off. Not long to go now.
Here’s one for the Victory fans seeing as the club’s sneaky attempt to get it played during the warm-ups was rumbled by the FFA this week.
Strebre Delovski is back in the VAR hot-seat following the controversy surrounding Sydney’s win over Perth last week. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping we don’t hear much from him today, in fact the man himself is probably hoping the same. Imagine if another video decision goes Sydney’s way. Things could get ugly. United Airlines ugly.
Looks like a huge contingent of Victory fans have made the trip north. They’re in good voice. Fair play. There’s a big police presence too, no signs of any trouble though.
Sydney FC: Vukovic, Grant, Wilkinson, Buijs, Zullo, Holosko, Brillante, O’Neill, Brosque, Ninkovic, Bobo. Subs: Redmayne, Dimijrijevic, Carney, Simon, Ryall
Melbourne Victory: Thomas, Georgevski, Baro, Donachie, Geria, Broxham, Troisi, Valeri, Rojas, Berisha, Khalfallah. Subs: Acton, Ansell, Austin, Mahazi, Ingham
Like a good episode of Shark Tank, a lot of the discussion this week has centred on the dodgy pitch. As predicted, the Waratahs mauled, scrummed and got soundly beaten all over the Allianz Stadium turf last night to leave it in, ahem, less-than impressive nick. It looks awful. Not exactly a great look for the FFA, but not exactly an uncommon A-League issue either.
Just realised the Long and Winding Road isn’t exactly the kind of tub-thumping, fist-pumping, stadium-rocking anthem to get you in the mood for a grand final. I’m trying to think of a song like Eye of the Tiger or Final Countdown but with more Guardianista class and … actually let’s just go with Eye of the Tiger. Now press play, close your eyes, and imagine Kevin Muscat jogging up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Evening everyone, so we’re on the final approach, the chequered flag is in sight and the plus-size diva is preparing to sing. And if recent clashes between Victory and Sydney FC are any gauge, we should be in for a corker of a grand final today – the Big Blue writ large.
I would say it’s been a long and winding road to get to this year’s A-League decider but for Sydney it’s been more like a traffic-free run down the Western Motorway. One league defeat, 17 points clear at the top, and domination of this year’s team of the season awards tells the tale. Just like house prices, it feels like the Sydney bubble will never burst. If anything, the Sky Blues are just starting to peak – they’ve conceded just one goal in their last seven games, and scored 12 in their last five. Ominous stuff.
Richard will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s how David Squires sees today’s big game:
Related: David Squires on … the A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory