Sydney FC stun Perth Glory to clinch A-League championship

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Sydney FC are the 2018/19 A-League champions after a 4-1 penalty shootout win over premiers Perth Glory in the grand final at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Glory boss Tony Popovic raised eyebrows before the game when he named leading goal scorer Andy Keogh on the bench in favour of Joel Chianese, but he was nearly vindicated early when Chianese rose to head a cross from Jason Davidson just wide of the post, firing the hosts into ascendancy.

Milos Ninkovic caused problems for the hosts early. ghosting through the midfield and finding himself in dangerous attacking positions while Chris Ikonomidis showed he was up for the big occasion causing Rhyan Grant all sorts of problems down the left flank.

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Then in a moment of drama Sydney FC opened the scoring with half an hour played through Adam Le Fondre, but a tight offside call on Michael Zullo in the build-up to the goal meant Sydney’s opener was controversially ruled out, much to the distaste of coach Steve Corica who earned a yellow card for his frustrated reaction.

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When the spot-fire died down so did the game, and after an intense first half hour of play the remainder of the first half was a cagey, tight affair with no clear chances to either side.

When play resumed in the second half, Glory produced a similarly upbeat start to that of the first with Diego Castro finding his way into the game and into dangerous areas in the opposition box. After a series of testing challenges between Davidson and Grant down Glory’s left wing the battle finally came to a boiling point when the two shaped up after a late tackle from Grant on the Glory full-back.

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The tussle added to the tension amongst the fans and players as the high-stakes affair entered its final stanza but with the prospect of the final whistle looming both sides fell back into a tentative, guarded style of play, and so the tussle carried past the final whistle and into extra time.

The short break before extra time had no impact on the pattern of play with Perth and Sydney like two rams continuously locked at the horns: pushing and pulling but never breaking free of each other.

The first half of extra time bled into the second and Glory’s intensity cranked up a gear, with substitute Scott Neville firing the first shot on either goal in what felt like an age, which flew over the bar but moved the crowd into a surge of noise.

But that, like all of the attacking chances of the night, failed to amount to anything and Perth Glory were sent to a penalty shootout for the second game in a week.

After successful penalties from Adam Le Fondre, Juande and Brandon O’Neill It was Glory’s top scorer Keogh who blinked first in the shootout, and when the Sydney ‘keeper stood tall to keep out Brendon Santalab’s chipped attempt Reza Ghoochannejhad stepped forward and struck the final nail in Glory’s coffin, sealing Sydney’s fourth A-League championship.

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Perth Glory 0 (1)
Penalties: Juande

Sydney FC 0 (4)
Penalties: Le Fondre, O’Neill, Grant, Goochannejhad

Optus Stadium
Referee: Shaun EVANS
Assistant referees: Andrew LINDSAY, Paul CETRANGOLO
Fourth official: Chris BEATH

Perth Glory: 33. Liam REDDY (GK), 3. Jason DAVIDSON, 4. Shane LOWRY, 5. Ivan FRANJIC (Scott NEVILLE 90′), 6. Dino DJULBIC, 7. Joel CHIANESE (9. Andy KEOGH 73′), 13. Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 17. Diego CASTRO, 19. Chris IKONOMIDIS (11. Brendon SANTALAB 115′), 27. JUANDE, 88. Neil KILKENNY (20. Jake BRIMMER 105′).

Unused subs: 1. Tando VELAPHI (GK).

Sydney FC: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Aaron CALVER, 4. Alex WILKINSON, 6. Josh BRILLANTE, 7. Michael ZULLO, 9. Adam LE FONDRE, 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 14. Alex BROSQUE (16. Reza Goochannejhad 94′), 22. Siem DE JONG (17. Anthony CACERES 77′), 23. Rhyan GRANT.

Unused subs: 20. Aleksander CISAK (GK), 8. Paulo RETRE, 11. Daniel DE SILVA.

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Matthew Comito
Football nut, student journalist and firm believer that Berisha dived in the 2012 A-League Grand Final. Covering Perth Glory for the 2018/19 season.