Melbourne City have etched their name in the history books with a stunning 2-1 victory over Sydbey FC in the 2021 A-League Grand Final.
City cement themselves as the first A-League expansion side to win the competition, following last year’s heartbreak in the Grand Final
A near cataclysmic error from Tom Glover sparked a showcase of attacking quality from City as Tilio bursted through, striking cleanly as far as a deflection off the Sky Blue defence.
A brief segment of possession for Sydney saw Baumjohann parry the ball to Kosta Barbarouses who placed it on his left, striking it home into the top left corner outside of the box for his third grand final goal in an absolute peach of a finish.
However in a showcase of resilience immediately following Sydney’s opener, City golden boy Stefan Colakovski made an unbelievable lung-busting run, passing it to perennial Olympics squad member Nathaniel Atkinson who struck it top corner in the face of A-League Young Player of the Year Joel King.
Moments later, riding a wave of momentum, Scott Galloway tee’d up an inch-perfect cross for Florin Berenguer who headed it wide of the goal in the 26th minute in a moment of angst for City supporters.
Further ploughing a third consecutive championship in doubt, following Luke Brattan’s early yellow card, in an act of burgeoning frustrating, a sliding challenge off a loose ball picked up by Marco Tilio led to his second yellow.
The former City midfielder earned his marching orders in the 35th minute, spurring on Steve Corica to institute defensive changes.
On the stroke of half time, as City continued to control possession Anthony Caceres brought down Adrian Luna on the edge of the penalty area, as sporadic penalty taker and City captain Scott Jamieson struck it in the top right corner as City took the lead for the first time in the contest.
A cagey commencement to the second half, following a corner Nathaniel Atkinson lofted the ball onto the chest of Colakovski, striking straight into the arms of Heward-Belle where on the rebound, Luna was unable to strike it home for City’s third.
With the presence of an extra body on the park, City began to take over the contest, ensuring they imposed their will with Andrew Nabbout and Marco Tilio instrumental in City’s chase for a third.
Scott Galloway, the A-League journeyman at such a young age rifled the ball into the bottom left corner for City’s third and final goal, as they raced to their first A-League Championship.
Facing an injury layoff for a large segment of the campaign, Tasmanian born Nathaniel Atkinson began to reintegrate himself into the City lineup in final matches of the regular season.
Following an unbelievable performance in last year’s big dance, the Olyroos candidate did one better, nullifying any potential doubts over his fitness.
This scintillating display signifies the versatility of Atkinson, who has been deployed in a RB position for the majority of the campaign, topped off with winning a Joe Marston medal.
THE START OF A DYNASTY
Kisnorbo’s City side has been a squad in the making for several years ever since the Heart’s inception in 2010.
In a moment in which utterly justifies the CFG’s decision to invest in Australian football, Melbourne City is now colloquially known as the destination side within the A-League, locking down key players such as Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren, whilst adding another Socceroo to their ranks in Matthew Leckie, cementing City’s place as a footballing institution bound to dominate in the years to come.
For supporters, it is a cathartic moment in time, ridiculed by rivals and chastised by supporters of the competition as their place within Australian footballing folklore is secured as first-time champions of the A-League.
SYDNEY TO RISE
Winning three championships since the 2017 win against the Melbourne Victory, Steve Corica loses his first championship at the helm of Sydney FC.
However, despite the losses of key defensive personnel ahead of the Grand Final, Sydney FC can hold their heads high despite falling at the final hurdle.
Adam Le Fondre is contracted for a further two seasons, and Sydney possess an abundance of youthful talent with the likes of Joel King, Harry Van Der Sag, Calem Nieuwenhof and Patrick Wood bound to provide moments to savour for the Sydney faithful.
It’s a footballing side that has dominated the league for several years, and will continue to do so with numerous succession plans in place for the Sky Blues.
A-League Grand Final
Melbourne City (Nathaniel Atkinson 23m, Scott Jamieson 45+1m, Scott Galloway 90+3m) 3-1 Sydney FC (Kosta Barbarouses 21m)
Referee: Chris Beath
VAR: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Melbourne City: 4-3-3
No 1. Tom Glover, 2. Scott Galloway, 7. Rostyn Griffiths, 4. Nuno Reis, 3. Scott Jamieson, 8. Aiden O’Neill, 20. Adrian Luna, 10. Florin Berenguer, 23. Marco Tilio, 17. Stefan Colakovski (15. Andrew Nabbout 74m), 13. Nathaniel Atkinson
Unused Subs: 33. Matthew Sutton, 11. Craig Noone, 16. Gormulka, 19. Ben Garrucio, 35. Raphael, 36. Kerrin Stokes
Manager: Patrick Kisnorbo
Yellow Cards: Marco Tilio, Stefan Colakovski
Red Cards: None
Sydney FC: 4-2-2-2
No 20. Tom Heward-Belle, 16. Joel King, 3. Ben Warland, 4. Alex Wilkinson, 8. Paulo Retre, 26. Luke Brattan, 17. Anthony Caceres (33. Patrick Wood 86m), 5. Alex Baumjohann (10. Milos Ninkovic 72m), 11. Kosta Barbarouses, 99. Adam Le Fondre, 9. Bobō (21. Harry Van der Saag, 38m)
Unused Subs: 30. Adam Pavlesic, 2. Patrick Flottmann, 18. Luke Ivanovic, 25. Callum Talbot,
Manager: Steve Corica
Yellow Cards: Luke Brattan
Red Cards: Luke Brattan