Sydney FC have been crowned A-League champions for 2009/10 after defeating Melbourne Victory on penalties. After the match finished 1-1 after regular time, a winner could not be decided in extra time but the Sky Blues came up trumps 4-2 after spot-kicks.
The match was marred with the potential serious knee injury to Victory striker Archie Thompson but overall it was a brilliant spectacle with plenty of end to end action.
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2009/10Melbourne Victory: 1 (Adrian Leijer 81') Sydney FC: 1 (Mark Bridge 63') *Sydney won 4-2 on penalties* Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne Crowd: 44,560 Referee: Strebre Delovski Yellow cards:MV - Kevin Muscat 62', Evan Berger 101' Syd - Seb Ryall 26', Mark Bridge 31', Simon Colosimo 51', Karol Kisel 84'
In front of a packed Etihad Stadium crowd, the Victory got proceedings under way with the kick-off and the 2009/10 A-League Grand Final was in play.
Sydney surged forward in the opening few minutes but not much came of their attacking forays as the Victory felt around to try and have some impact on the match.
The Sky Blues were entertaining the thought of some long range shots which seemed the order of the day in the opening quarter of an hour but they did little to worry Victory's Mitch Langerak who was receiving warm adulation from the Blue and White Army.
Just after the ten-minute mark, a scare was sent through the Victory camp when star striker Archie Thompson went down in the penalty area after cutting back into the box but Sydney's Simon Colosimo challenged strongly and the league's all-time leading scorer was in plenty of pain as he clutched his knee. He managed to walk off the pitch to receive treatment but moments later he was substituted off for Costa Rican midfielder Marvin Angulo and required a stretcher to leave the stadium.
In the 20th minute, the Victory were inches wide of an opener when Carlos Hernandez let fly with a free-kick from 25 yards but his curling set piece whizzed past the upright although Sydney keeper Clint Bolton seemingly had it covered.
The match began to heat up around the half-hour mark as Sydney turned physical and tried to manhandle the Victory players and were shown two yellow cards for poor challenges in the process.
With five minutes remaining in the half, Sydney's Chris Payne ran on to a long ball that looked like offside but he was played on and advanced into the area only to see his shot from an angle tipped away by Langerak. The Victory immediately countered and after some lead-up play, Thai international Surat Sukha went agonisingly close with a right-foot shot that whistled over the crossbar. It proved to be the last play of any real consequence of a fiery first 45 minutes that saw Melbourne take the ascendency into the break.
Moments into the second term, Langerak was forced into a diving save when Mark Bridge tried his luck at a volley from the edge of the area but luckily for the Victory the young gloveman was up to the task and sent the ball wide of the mark.
A few minutes later the home side were unlucky not to score when Hernandez sent a ball into the area where defender Rodrigo Vargas sent his header into the upright from close range but he was adjudged offside by the linesman making his efforts redundant.
The Sky Blues continued their physical ways as the Victory focused on playing the ball and it almost paid off in the 62nd minute when Vargas bundled the ball in but again he was offside. On the counter, however, Sydney hit the lead when Alex Brosque played the ball in from the left flank only to see it deflect off Sukha into the path of Bridge who nodded home from close range, silencing the Etihad crowd but sending the Sky Blues faithful into raptures.
The Sky Blues could have gone two ahead in the 67th minute when young striker Payne found an opening in the area but he scuffed his shot wide as the match hit top gear.
Both coaches began to ring the changes in the final 15 minutes as Melbourne searched for an equaliser as Sydney decided to sit on their narrow lead but it didn't really stop the players pushing forward and Karol Kisel came close to scoring with a header from a tight angle but fortunately for the Victory, it looped over the crossbar.
With just over ten minutes remaining, the Victory were awarded a free-kick way outside the area but still in 'Carlos territory' as the Johnny Warren Medallist stepped up but blasted the dead ball wide of the mark although it was enough to give the Sydney fans a scare.
And a scare they got in the 81st minute when Adrian Leijer powered home a header from a pinpoint Muscat free-kick to level the scores and caused Etihad Stadium to erupt.
The Victory fans were at fever pitch when Leijer almost headed home a potential winner in the 85th minute from a Leigh Broxham corner but the ball hit the roof of the net and again they went close when substitute Aziz Behich could have made a name for himself but he failed to knock the ball in from a metre out after Vargas' glancing header found him at the back post.
Extra time was inevitable in the final few minutes of regular time and that's exactly what we got as the players had to find something for a further 30 minutes.
The opening few minutes of extra time were not as cut throat as the final ten of regular time as the players battled fatigue and soreness in search of a winner. Some fundamental errors were beginning to creep into proceedings and it looked like it may be a test of nerves.
Sydney pressed early in the second fifteen minutes of added time and once again, Langerak was called upon to make a great save when Kisel teed up Bridge after Terry McFlynn had won a free-kick but the venomous shot was parried away by the Victory custodian.
With four minutes remaining, Victory's Angulo won a free-kick of his own ten yards outside the penalty area but Hernandez's curling shot into the top corner was well-held by Bolton as the game rolled on.
Down the other end, Sydney substitute Joe Gibbs was upended by Muscat and referee Strebre Delovski awarded a free-kick which Shannon Cole struck safely into the arms of a waiting Langerak. Moments later, Hernandez was at it again when he fumbled his way into the penalty area only to have his cramped legs get the better of him and extra time ended with the score at 1-1 to take the decider into a penalty shootout.
Syd: Simon Colosimo - scores sending Langerak wrong way: 1-0 MV: Kevin Muscat - misses hitting upright after sending Bolton left: 1-0 Syd: Shannon Cole - Langerak makes diving save: 1-0 MV: Grant Brebner - scores sending Bolton wrong way: 1-1 Syd: Hayden Foxe - scores giving Langerak no chance: 2-1 MV: Marvin Angulo - Bolton saves diving to his left: 2-1 Syd: Karol Kisel - scores comfortably: 3-1 MV: Leigh Broxham - scores with ease: 3-2 Syd: Sung-Hwan Byun - scores to give Sydney the win
MV:Mitchell Langerak (gk), Kevin Muscat (c), Surat Sukha (71'), Leigh Broxham, Grant Brebner, Archie Thompson (16'), Rodrigo Vargas, Carlos Hernandez, Robbie Kruse, Nick Ward (76'), Adrian Leijer
Subs: Glen Moss (gk), Marvin Angulo (16'), Matthew Foschini, Evan Berger (71'), Aziz Behich (76')
Subs:Ivan Necevski (gk), Hayden Foxe (105'), Brendan Gan, Shannon Cole (75'), Joe Gibbs (115')