After three draws this season, Melbourne Victory deservedly and ruthlessly disposed of Sydney 3-0 in Sunday’s A-League grand final to join Brisbane Roar as the only clubs to claim three titles.
A fantastic season came to a glorious crescendo, with grand final specialist Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Leigh Broxham scoring in a completely one-sided contest.
The 29,843 attendance broke the previous record at AAMI Park of 29,442 for a Rugby League Test in 2010.
Victory set the tone from the first whistle when Berisha took the ball and ran at the Sydney players, drawing an immediate foul, though it took a while to break the deadlock.
Chances were rare early on as a physical game became stop-start as referee Jarred Gillett was forced to intervene numerous times as tempers frayed.
Gui Finkler released Kiwi Barbarouses in the 12th minute after the tenacious Mark Milligan dispossessed Milos Dimitrijevic, but a heavy touch from Barbarouses allowed switched on Sydney keeper Vedran Janjetovic to save.
Under siege Sydney was praying they would hold out until the break, but left-back Nikola Petkovic’s poor clearance, largely due to Leigh Broxham’s pressure, led to Victory’s opener.
Having several chances to clear, the Serb was forced back to his corner flag before his underhit kick fell to Barbarouses who crossed for Berisha, with the striker combining wonderfully with Gui Finkler.
The pair chested it between each other with two touches, before the sharp Berisha set himself then struck a sizzling left-foot volley past Janjetovic, to score his fourth goal in three grand finals.
The actual turning point came 17 minutes before Berisha’s goal, when classy defender Jacques Faty limped off injured.
He was innocuously duelling with Berisha in the middle and then clutched at his left hamstring.
Faty, the former Marseilles defender, and his Senegalese cousin, defensive midfielder Mickael Tavares have added poise to an often suspect defensive third since arriving mid-season.
It forced a reshuffle with Seb Ryall forced from right-back to stopper and sub Rhyan Grant replacing Ryall.
Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas stood tall seconds before half-time, reacting sharply to Alex Brosque’s 15 metre strike after Victory momentarily switched off.
Besart Berisha of the Victory celebrates scoring the opener.Source: Getty Images
Sydney FC were all over the place after the restart, but Victory failed to punish Matt Jurman’s two early mistakes.
Graham Arnold threw on veteran sharpshooter Shane Smeltz, but their best chance fell to golden boot winner Marc Janko, who was unmarked but headed straight into Thomas’ hands from Grant’s 76th minute cross.
The struggling visitors’ last roll of the dice came around the same time when Socceroo midfielder Terry Antonis replaced Tavares.