Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 03:04 AM


A-League Grand Final preview: Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory

5pm AEST, 7pm NZT @ Allianz Stadium

There’s always a sense of relief when the two best teams from the regular season qualify through to the grand final, something which a play-off format means is never guaranteed.

Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory were in reality a country mile ahead of their nearest rivals in the 2017/17 A-League season, with Sydney putting in a record-breaking season which saw them lose just one match on their way to 66 points via 20 wins and six draws.

The next closest team, Victory, were 17 points off the pace, while for Melbourne they finished seven points clear of the third-placed Brisbane Roar in what was a fine campaign, almost completely overshadowed by the utter dominance of their grand final opponents.

FC built their season off incredible defence, leaking just 12 goals in 27 regular season matches, at an average of less than one every two matches. They also had the best attack in the competition with 55 successful strikes prior to the finals.

Victory too possess a potent attack, spearheaded by the A-League’s joint-winner of the Golden Boot, Besart Berisha. In 2016/17 he was competently backed up by All Whites star Marco Rojas, who finished equal-first in the league for assists.

It shapes as being an entertaining decider with plenty of end-to-end action.

Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 22.Seb RYALL, 23.Rhyan GRANT.

Melbourne Victory squad: 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 23.Jai INGHAM, 40.Matt ACTON (GK).

Form guide: Sydney FC – WWDWW. Melbourne Victory – WWDLL.

2016/17 head-to-head history: Sydney FC 2 Melbourne Victory 1, Melbourne Victory 1 Sydney FC 2, Sydney FC 1 Melbourne Victory 0.

The key match-up: Besart Berisha v Danny Vukovic. The A-League’s best striker up against the man who let in fewer goals than any other this season. As Melbourne’s leading marksman, Berisha netted 20 goals from only 57 shots, developing an excellent relationship with the likes of Rojas and James Troisi in the attacking third. Vukovic plays behind a strong defensive unit, but at 32 is in arguably career-best form and this year has saved 86 per cent of the shots that have come his way. No other A-League keeper has achieved an 80 per cent success rate this season.

Match officials: Referee – Jarred Gillett. Assistant referees – David Walsh and Matthew Cream. Fourth official – Peter Green. Fifth official – Owen Goldrick. Video assistant referee – Strebre Delovski.

[YouTube – Sydney FC]

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About the author

Corey Rosser

One of CBS’s newest contributors, Te Aroha product Corey is the New Zealand correspondent for NRL.com, the editor for the excellent new site Kiwi League Central, and a guru of the local Auckland rugby league scene.

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