In an end fitting for the climax of the 10th A-League season, Melbourne Victory are champions with a convincing 3 – 0 win over Sydney FC.
A celebration ten years in the making, Victory quickly imposed themselves with witty attacks and dominating control. Besart Berisha and Kosta Barbarouses caused havoc to the Sydney line, whilst Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham held a tight ship in defence.
A Big Blue Grand Final for the history books, the disappointment of conceding to the FFA’s second choice of Grand Final venue was quickly forgotten.
This was the Grand Final that the league has been waiting ten years to experience. A football specific stadium, AAMI Park, packed to the brim and producing an atmosphere that can only be described as deafening. A wonderful image that truly expresses the state of the game in Australia: vibrant and alive.
All the pop and bubble of the pre-game show set an edgy feel for kick-off. There were to be fireworks and not just the ones in the pre-game pyrotechnics show. In under a minute, a player was down and harsh words were being spoken of both shades of blue.
This intensity of an early physical contest saw the referee play an active part in the blowing of his whistle. The pressure from the spectacle of the match was showing through with neither side willing to hand over the physiological edge.
A similar war was being waged in the stands. Victory fans were in vocal force that echoed around the whole stadium, challenging the mediocre, but passionate none the less, sky blues to match them.
Thirty minutes in, Victory through Berisha, were first to strike. Sydney’s reckless attempt to clear from underneath Melbourne’s aggressive press turned possession over to an awaiting Barbarouses. A chip and spin from Berisha onto his left foot allowed little chance for Sydney keeper Janjetović to save the deadly shot headed his way.
The party had began and there was no stopping it anytime soon. Melbourne’s defensive pressure was superb and contributed to Sydney only having a single short on goal in the first half.
There was a feeling on the field of what was to come next, foreboding from the beginning of the second half. Melbourne’s floodgates were about to open.
First it was Barbarouses, who netted a bouncing ball from Berisha, his more than sufficient striking partner. Broxham decided he wanted in too – controlling on the left before threading it neatly between Janjetović and the goalpost.
Chest beating and badge kissing was rightly premature. Victory were going to be champions – and they knew it. The final ten minutes was a flurry of passion and outpouring of excitement, but who can blame them.
Sydney FC were down and out for the full ninety, never moving out of first gear. The minimal and lacklustre control they had on the ball saw them unable to do much in attack against relentless press from Victory’s back four.
A hardline shot on the chirp of half time from skipper Alex Brosque was the best they could produce for the whole day.
The John Marsden honor was bestowed on Mark Milligan – a player who just a over a year ago passed up the opportunity at an English Premier League side in Crystal Palace to stay on in Melbourne. Icing on the cake of a year that’s seen him victorious in the Socceroos shirt in the Asian Cup and a visit to Brazil for the World Cup.
FINAL SCORE – MVFC 3 – 0 SFC
(And thankfully, 84 year-old FFA Chairman Frank Lowy is fine. His tumble of the presentation stage only causing him a minor shoulder injury.)
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Words by Jacob Arnott. Photos by Aleks Jason