Melbourne Victory has won their third Hyundai A-League title after dismantling Sydney FC 3-0 in a spiteful grand final at a pumping AAMI Park on Sunday night.
Goals to Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Leigh Broxham completed a scintillating triumph for Kevin Muscat’s side, who secured the club’s first title since 2009.
The goal avalanche that was predicted didn’t eventuate, with Berisha’s first half goal the difference until just seven minutes from the end.
Barbarouses capped a superb individual display with the match-sealer, meaning Carl Valeri’s late red card would have no effect on the outcome.
It was a disappointing end for the Sky Blues, who struggled to produce their best as Victory backed up their Premiers’ Plate win with the ultimate prize.
1-0 Berisha (34’) – Kosta Barbarouses hit a powerful cross which hit Berisha on the chest, the ball pin-balling to Gui Finkler and back to the Albanian. Showing exceptional skill, Berisha flicked the ball up and turned in one motion before rifling an unstoppable strike in the far top corner.
2-0 Barbarouses (83’) – A cheap turnover by Alex Brosque saw Barbarouses drive at the heart of the Sydney defence. He played a brilliant one-two with Fahid Ben Khalfallah and although his first shot was blocked, he stayed alert and composed to tuck the rebound away just inside the far post.
3- Broxham (90’) – A swift counter-attack ended with Ben Khalfallah spotting the over-lapping run of Broxham down the right. He took one touch to control before smashing it past Janjetovic at his near post.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It means everything. We’ve been working so hard for the last eleven months and to do it in front of our beautiful home fans is a dream come true. We’ve done a lot of hard work and I think it showed tonight that we were the better team over the season.
I don’t think we were surprised by anything they threw at us tonight. With all due respect to Sydney we were pretty comfortable through the game. Thankfully we took our chances, we could have had a couple more but we got there in the end.” – Victory attacker Kosta Barbarouses
Sydney’s marquee man Marc Janko struggled to make an impact for much of the contest but had a huge chance to equalise inside the last 15 minutes. A pinpoint cross from the right by Rhyan Grant picked out the Austrian skipper with a free header about 10 yards from goal. Janko got plenty of power on it but it was close enough to the ‘keeper for Thomas to save. For a player of Janko’s goal-scoring quality he should have buried it. Seven minutes later Barbarouses struck to ensure the title was Victory’s.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Berisha’s goal made it four for the striker in his third Hyundai A-League grand final appearance. Victory’s dominance in the first half was underlined by the fact Sydney managed just one shot at goal all half, in the final minute of stoppage-time. The win for Victory means they remain unbeaten in finals matches against the Sky Blues (excluding shootouts).
Hard to go past match-winner Berisha, who showed yet again he is the man for the big occasion. He produced a moment of sublime skill for the opening goal, brilliant awareness, a silky touch an unerring finish inside the box. A true goal-scorer. The stunning strike was only bettered by a commanding performance from Victory skipper Mark Milligan, who was immense in the middle of the park and a heaving atmosphere in front of a record crowd of just under 30,000. The crowd figure of 29,843 is a new ground record, usurping the previous best of 29,442 for a rugby league test in 2010.
Horrible luck for Sky Blues defender Jacques Faty, forced off inside 19 minutes with a hamstring injury. It forced a reshuffle at the back with Sebastian Ryall moving from the right into central defence, with Rhyan Grant on the flank. It was a blow for the visitors.
While the result was already secured, Carl Valeri blotted his night with a silly red card two minutes from time. Valeri – perhaps lucky earlier not to be shown a straight red for a lunging challenge on Nikola Petkovic – picked up a second yellow for kicking the ball away.
THE FINAL WORD
Victory proved they were the competition’s best side, adding the championship to their Premiers’ Plate win. With the best attack and stingiest defence, Kevin Muscat’s side are worthy champions and are sure to celebrate like it over the next few days.
Sydney FC chose the wrong time to end their incredible away form, struggling to produce their best on the biggest day of the season. But it was a massive improvement on recent seasons and they will be back bigger and stronger in 2015/16.
Melbourne Victory: Thomas, Broxham, Ansell (Geria 90+2’), Delpierre, Georgievski, Valeri, Milligan, Barbarouses, Finkler (Mahazi 87’), Ben Khalfallah, Berisha (Thompson 90+1’)
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Faty (Grant 19’), Jurman, Petkovic, Tavares (Antonis 75’), Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Naumoff (Smeltz 53’), Janko
Scorers: Berisha 34’, Barbarouses 83’, Broxham 90’
Red cards: Valeri 88’
Yellow cards: Berisha 15’, Grant 29’, Smeltz 64’, Valeri 67’, Ryall 74’, Valeri 88’
Conditions: 19C, Fine
Attendance: 29,843 @ AAMI Park