Victory loses epic Grand Final

Melbourne Victory’s bid to become the first Hyundai A-League club to win back-to-back championships has ended in heartbreak after it went down to Sydney FC in the first ever penalty shoot-out to decide a grand final.

Melbourne Victory’s bid to become the first Hyundai A-League club to win back-to-back championships has ended in heartbreak after it went down to Sydney FC in the first ever penalty shoot-out to decide a grand final.

The Victory, which lost superstar striker Archie Thompson to a serious knee injury after only 16 minutes, fought magnificently to even take the game to extra time after they looked headed for defeat when Mark Bridge scored in the 63rd minute.

However, a fabulous equaliser by central defender Adrian Leijer in the 81st minute gave Melbourne a new lease on life and ensured that for the first time a Hyundai A-League grand final went into extra time.

It was the first time, in fact, that two teams had scored in a Hyundai A-League Grand Final but after an uneventful period of extra time, the scores remained locked at 1-1.

It was left to the dreaded penalty shoot-out to decide the 2009/10 champion and Melbourne’s bid to become the first Hyundai A-League club to win three championships.

But after Sydney veteran Simon Colosimo, who was lucky to stay on the pitch when he could so easily had received a second yellow card in the second half, scored the opening penalty – disaster struck for Melbourne.

Victory skipper Kevin Muscat – the most reliable penalty taker in the Hyundai A-League having never missed one – then missed his team’s first penalty when his shot struck the left post.

Melbourne then gave itself a chance of rescuing what would have been one of its greatest wins ever when keeper Mitch Langerak pulled off a great save from Shannon Cole before Grant Brebner converted Melbourne’s second penalty to level the scores at 1-1.

But after Hayden Foxe then scored Sydney’s third penalty, Melbourne missed again when Sydney keeper Clint Bolton saved from Costa Rican import Marvin Angulo.

Sydney’s Karol Kisel then scored to make it 3-1 on penalties leaving Melbourne midfielder Leigh Broxham needing to score to keep Melbourne’s hopes alive.

He did but Sydney then converted its final penalty through Korean Sung-Hwan Byun to win 4-2 on penalties and claim its second championship – now equal with Melbourne after five seasons of the Hyundai A-League.

Sydney also became the first away team to win the grand final as the bulk of the 44,500-strong crowd went home devastated.

But Melbourne Victory was brave in defeat and could only rue the injury curse which has plagued the club all season.

Thompson went down in the 16th minute after an accidental clash of knees with Colosimo and was carried from the field.

It was a devastating blow for the man, who made a sensational return from the fractured foot that had sidelined him for six weeks in the second leg of the major semi-final against Sydney a fortnight ago when he scored the winning goal to ensure Melbourne would host the grand final.

But now Thompson, who scored five goals in Melbourne’s 6-0 win over Adelaide in the 2007 Grand Final, is facing a long period on the sidelines with a suspected anterior cruciate ligament injury.

However, Melbourne bravely shrugged off the loss of Thompson to match it with Sydney in an exciting first half in which the tackles flew in thick and fast with the game played in the kind of frenzied atmosphere that would not have been out of place in Glasgow or London.

There were few chances in the first half but the game exploded into life in the 62nd minute.

First Melbourne thought it had scored only for Rody Vargas’ effort to be correctly ruled out for off-side.

With the Melbourne crowd still celebrating and not aware of the linesman’s flag, Sydney transferred play in the blink of an eye and immediately went down the other end and scored when Bridge headed home in the 63rd minute after Alex Brosque’s cross had deflected off Surat Sukha and lobbed perfectly for Bridge to nod home at the far post.

It was the second time in three seasons that Bridge had scored in a grand final after doing so for Newcastle against Central Coast in its 1-0 win in the 2008 Grand Final.

Melbourne appeared deflated and should have fallen two behind when Chris Payne missed a sitter of a header in the 67th minute.

However, showing the courage which has been its trademark for five years, Melbourne looked to have rescued the game when Leijer headed home superbly after rising above two Sydney defenders in the 81st minute following Muscat’s quickly-taken free kick.

Sydney was rattled and Melbourne had the chance to win the game when young substitute Aziz Behich almost nodded in at the far post with Sydney keeper Clint Bolton appearing stranded in the 87th minute.

But Sydney held on until the end of 90 minutes and as both teams ran out of legs in extra time, it was inevitable the match would be decided on penalties.

But unfortunately the lottery went against Melbourne on this occasion.

Melbourne Victory: 1 (Leijer 81)
Sydney FC: 1 (Bridge 63)


Crowd: 44,560 at Etihad Stadium