Aussie teams often fall at the first hurdle within the cutthroat confines of the ACL.
So the A-League grand final has finally arrived, and it has arrived in spectacular style.
It started off with the domination of what looked like an ‘easy’ win for Melbourne Victory against Wellington Phoenix. There was then the gripping contest that was Adelaide United versus Melbourne City, where Ben Halloran’s goal in the 119th minute sealed the deal and booked Adelaide a trip to Perth.
Five days later, Perth Glory and Adelaide battled it out in a truly stunning night at NIB Stadium, where a goal in the 94th minute from Ryan Kitto forced Adelaide to extra time for the second time in one week. Perth’s rest week proved good for them and they constantly pushed forward, and it eventually paid off with Scott Neville’s 104th-minute goal, and when the game looked to finally wrap up, Kitto turned provider, sending in a looping cross which found the head of Michael Marrone. Adelaide’s sheer resilience pushed them through to penalties.
But unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and they were unluckily beaten in an epic penalty shootout. There was then the ‘Mother’s day massacre’ at Jubilee, where the viewers who tuned in to watch what I described in my match preview as the ‘closest game so far’ saw Sydney FC prevail in an astonishing 6-1 contest, which means I’ll be using my off-season to get my tipping up to scratch.
And now it all comes down to this. The Champions of the A-League will be decided. And it brings an end to a season which a lot of people want to forget, but it has had its upsides too.
Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix proved that clubs are never down and out, which is hopeful for the Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers. There have been new standout players, Neil Kilkenny, Chris Ikonomidis and Max Burgess showed that when you’re down you’re not out. But in truth, there’s not much I can say to hype up the occasion anymore. An almost sold-out grand final at Optus Stadium is just what the A-League needs.
Perth Glory squad
Perth Glory is very likely to have an unchanged line-up to the team that faced Adelaide United, and the only person I can see coming in is Joel Chianese. Chianese is another person who has had a breakthrough season under Tony Popovic, and after dragging them through to the grand-final with his thumping penalty, Tony Popovic will have had a headache all week on whether to play Andy Keogh or Chianese.
Due to the depth of the Perth Glory squad, Popovic has been rotating the starting XI constantly, and last week chose Keogh over Chianese. Keogh offers an Ariel threat and something different to the Perth Glory team, whereas Chianese offers a different class of speed and agility when on the ball. It is most likely that Keogh will start, due to his goal tally and chemistry with Chris Ikonomidis and Diego Castro.
Predicted starting XI
GK: Liam Reddy
LCB: Shane Lowry
CB: Matthew Spiranovic
RCB: Dino Dulbic
LWB: Jason Davidson
CM: Neil Kilkenny
RWB: Ivan Franjic
RAM: Diego Castro
LAM: Chris Ikonomidis
RS: Andy Keogh
Sydney FC squad
It’s no surprise that Steve Corica hasn’t changed his squad; why would he? They played some astonishing football against Melbourne Victory and are fired up for Perth. It was really smart from Steve Corica to start Alex Brosque, he brings some fire into the ice that is Milos Ninkovic, Siem De Jong and Adam Le Fondre.
I thought that with Reza Ghoochannejhad in the squad, there was a bit too much creativity, and Alex Brosque evens it out perfectly and brings more talk and leadership to Sydney’s game. There is no doubt that if he is fit, he will be starting his last ever game in football.
Predicted starting XI
GK: Andrew Redmayne
LB: Michael Zullo
CB: Aaron Calver
CB: Alex Wilkinson
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Brandon O’Neill
CDM: Joshua Brillante
LAM: Milos Ninkovic
RAM: Siem De Jong
ST: Alex Brosque
ST: Adam Le Fondre
Predicted match result
Although my tipping skills haven’t been up to scratch lately, I can predict that this is going to be a really entertaining and creative game, based on the players on the pitch and the coaches. Tony Popovic has the edge on Steve Corica in terms of experience in coaches, but Corica’s team have much more experienced players when it comes to big games. Thank you for joining me in my last match preview of the season, and good luck to both sides ahead of this battle.
Let’s hope it lives up to the expectation.