Tuesday 20 February 2018 / 10:50 PM


Sydney FC’s incredible season is complete, with the Sky Blues being crowned 2016-17 A-League champions following Sunday night’s grand final after downing the Melbourne Victory in penalty shootout.

FC were far and away the best team in the A-League this season, maybe even in the history of Australian club football, and at Allianz Stadium in Sydney they ensured there would be no ‘what ifs’ at the conclusion of their incredible season, beating Melbourne 4-2 on penalties to finish an absorbing decider.

They did it the hard way, going down after 20 minutes before fighting their way back to score a goal with that long remaining in normal time.

Besart Berisha, the A-League’s all-time leading scorer and this season’s joint Golden Boot winner, gave Victory an unlikely lead with a calm strike to the side of Sydney keeper Danny Vukovic, and they would hold the advantage through until deep inside the second half.

It was then that Rhyan Grant popped up to smash home an equaliser on 69 minutes, after it had initially appeared Berisha had produced a miraculous goal-line clearance while on his back inside the goal mouth.

An already physical encounter started to become bitter at this point.

Both sides were getting away with plenty in terms of fouls, and at one stage football became the sideshow to numerous small bar fights on the pitch in front the 41,546-strong crowd.

They couldn’t find a winner at the end of 90 minutes and extra time was required.

Melbourne midfielder James Troisi had the best chance in added time, pinging the ball off the inside of the goal to narrowly miss out on become the hero, and for the first time since the 2010 decider penalties would be required to find out who was Australia’s best.

FC captain Alex Brosque got things started by sending Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas the wrong way, before Troisi lifted his effort into an unsaveable area in the top of the net.

Alex Wilkinson, playing in his fourth grand final and still searching for his maiden A-League title, then pushed his attempt to the left of the posts and veteran midfielder Leigh Broxham gave Melbourne the advantage on the next shot.

David Carney made no mistake on Sydney’s third attempt, before Victory’s skipper Carl Valeri smashed it off the crossbar to square things up once again.

Brandon O’Neill nailed his attempt, before Vukovic came up with the play of the match, correctly guessing the direction of a shot from Marco Rojas, which he saved brilliantly to give his side the advantage.

From there Milos Ninkovic, fresh off being named the Johnny Warren Medal (Player of the Year) winner mid-week, stepped up to bury the winner and give Sydney FC their third A-League title.

Post-match Vukovic, who like Wilkinson had appeared in three losing grand finals previously, spoke about the satisfaction of finishing of FC’s historic season with a title, after they went through the entire campaign with only one loss.

“I am speechless, that whole penalty shootout was a blur,” Vukovic said.

“I can’t believe we have won it, it’s an amazing feeling. I think we thoroughly deserve this championship.”

After suffering heartbreak on the biggest day of the season with both the Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory previously, the Socceroos’ shot-stopper said he felt relief to avoid a fourth grand final loss.

“I don’t know what i would have done if I’d lost a fourth,” he said.

“It’s taken 12 years, I have wanted this for 12 years and it’s finally happened.”

[YouTube – The Tight Five Football]

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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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