Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

A-League: Sydney FC claim top prize in Melbourne

Posted in Asian Football, Oceania Football by peterbein on March 20, 2010
Hyundai A-League trophy

The Hyundai A-League trophy was won by Sydney FC after a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Melbourne Victory

Sydney FC are the new Australian football champions defeating the Melbourne Victory 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out (1:1 after extra-time) after the two teams couldn’t be separated after 120 minutes of football. In what was a tense, tightly fought contest chances were scarce for the most part with both sides not looking to give much away in terms of territory and possession. Sydney, who were already the Minor Premiers having finished top of the regular season standings, held their nerve in the shoot out with Korean Byun Sung-Hwan dispatching the crucial spot kick to land the Harbour City side a memorable double.

The Etihad Stadium in Melbourne was the venue for Australia’s big final and a crowd of 44,560 were there to witness the latest installment of a rivalry which has grown since the inception of the A-League in 2005. These clubs had won three of the four previous Grand Finals and they had already played five times in the 2009-10 season with the Sky Blues of Sydney having the better record over the Navy Blues of Melbourne with two wins to one with two drawn games. Before the  final John Aloisi was confirmed as a non-starter for Sydney FC after he picked up a hamstring injury in last week’s Preliminary Final against Wellington Phoenix. Melbourne were able to include Archie Thompson in the side after his recovery from a foot injury but, unfortunately for him, he would have to come off the pitch just 13 minutes into the Grand Final after an injury to the same foot that’d kept him out for nearly two months. The first half was a drab affair with both midfields cancelling each other out. The only chances of note in the first 45 minutes came from Melbourne’s Carlos Hernández (a free-kick just going wide) after 20 minutes and Sydney’s Chris Payne (a low shot tipped out for a corner) four minutes before half-time.

The second half saw the game gradually build up in excitement levels with Mark Bridge setting the tone one minute after the re-start with a shot from the edge of the penalty box saved. Melbourne’s Nicky Ward and Marvin Angulo both had efforts at goal before the most exciting sixty seconds of the Grand Final. In the 62nd minute Hernández had a shot from distance which was saved before Rodrigo Vargas put the rebound into the back of the net only for the linesman to disallow the goal for offside. With some Melbourne players still celebrating the goal that never was, some quick thinking from Sydney FC gained an immediate reward as the Sky Blues, playing in their changed strip, went up the other end to break the deadlock. A cross from Alex Brosque from the left side of the penalty area was deflected up into the air and Mark Bridge guided the dropping ball home from a couple of yards out to give the Minor Premiers the lead. From then Sydney confidence began to grow and Chris Payne should’ve wrapped the game up just four minutes but he shot wide from twelve yards with most of the goal at his mercy. After a couple of substitutions Melbourne began to take the game to Sydney FC as the game went into the last ten minutes and when Adrian Leijer equalized for Victory with a bullet header following a Kevin Muscat free-kick in the 81st minute there seemed that there was only going to be one winner as Melbourne threw everything at Sydney. Carlos Hernández saw an 85th minute free-kick deflect out of play and from the resulting corner goalscorer Leijer headed over. With three minutes to go the chance of the game for Melbourne came but with no joy. Another Hernández corner was flicked on and substitute Aziz Behich found himself with the perfect opportunity to score from two yards out but fluffed his lines when it mattered most. The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes so extra-time had to be played.

After the momentum that Melbourne had built up towards the end of normal time the final whistle came at the wrong moment for The Victory as the break allowed Sydney FC time to regroup and regain focus on the task ahead. Extra-time proved to be a tense affair with as little attacking play shown as in the first half of normal time. Evan Berger did have a shot three minutes into extra-time but there were very few meaningful efforts until the last ten minutes. Sydney’s Mark Bridge had a curling shot saved by Mitch Langerak whilst, at the other end, Carlos Hernández, in the last minute of added-time, attempted a mazy dribble into the box but his final touch let him down and the ball went into Sydney keeper Clint Bolton’s hands. Thirty minutes of extra-time were unable to decide a winner so the dreaded lottery of a penalty shoot-out was used to decide an A-League Grand Final for the first time in the competition’s short history.

Simon Colisimo settled Sydney nerves by scoring the first penalty in the shoot-out. Melbourne’s first penalty taker was club captain Kevin Muscat, a player who had scored every one of the 23 penalties he had previously taken in the A-League. If ever there was a time to miss a penalty then this wasn’t it; Muscat hit the post with his effort and Sydney had the early advantage. Muscat must’ve breathed a sigh of relief when Sydney’s Shannon Cole had his effort saved allowing Grant Brebner to restore parity with his spot kick. Veteran player Hayden Foxe gave Sydney the advantage again tucking away his kick before Marvin Angulo had his kick saved by Langerak. Karol Kisel coolly struck his kick down the middle to give Sydney a 3-1 lead before Leigh Broxham pulled one back with Melbourne’s fourth kick. Byun Sung-Hwan scored Sydney’s fifth kick with great aplomb and this was the signal for the Sky Blues’ players to start the celebrating their first A-League title since the inaugural 2005-06 season. Melbourne Victory have to put the defeat behind them as they fly out only hours after the game to Japan to prepare for their next game in the AFC Champions League against Kawasaki Frontale on Tuesday.


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