Melbourne City’s triumphant 3-1 win over Sydney FC in Sunday’s grand final ensures the A-League will resume on Network Ten and Paramount+ with plenty of compelling storylines.
For 35 minutes at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon, premiership winners City and two-time defending champs Sydney FC turned on one of the most enthralling spectacles seen all season.
Then Luke Brattan dived in on Marco Tilio ten minutes before halftime and the complexion of the whole campaign, let alone the remainder of the game, changed completely.
Sky Blues supporters were quick to claim Brattan was first to the ball when he slid in on Tilio on the halfway line, but the reality is the Sydney FC midfielder was already on a yellow card.
Having already up-ended Aiden O’Neill ten minutes earlier, Brattan gave referee Chris Beath no choice but to dismiss him.
And as soon as Sydney FC went down to ten men, it was always going to be Melbourne City’s game to lose.
It looked that way even before Kosta Barbarouses had given the visitors a shock lead, with City dominating the early exchanges before the Kiwi international smashed home the opener with an absolute piledriver from long-range.
City’s immediate equaliser was no less than they deserved, and their goalscorer Nathaniel Atkinson would go on to win the Joe Marston Medal as the best player on the park.
If Atkinson deserved his accolade, surely City skipper Scott Jamieson can’t have been too far behind.
The veteran fullback rubs plenty of people the wrong way but he was utterly relentless on the night, harassing like a terrier and showing nerves of steel to step up and smash home an unstoppable second from the penalty spot.
If City’s big names stepped up – goalkeeper Tom Glover and his back four allowed just two Sydney FC shots on goal for the entire 90 minutes – then Sydney FC’s had a night to forget.
Bobo barely touched the ball before he was hooked following Brattan’s dismissal, while Adam Le Fondre spent much of the game forlornly trying to press City’s commanding back four.
And with Milos Ninkovic only fit enough for the bench, it was left to Alex Baumjohann to try and spark something for the visitors.
The German set up Barbarouses for the opener but without Brattan’s metronomic passing through midfield, the Sky Blues looked cooked.
That’s because City outplayed them from start to finish. Hats off to Paddy Kisnorbo, who emulated Steve Corica in winning the A-League in his first season as coach.
For all the question marks around the City Football Group, they’re evidently in Australia for the long haul. They deserve praise for elevating a coach like Kisnorbo from within and backing him to the hilt.
And with Mat Leckie set to join Jamie Maclaren in a star-studded attack next season, it’s clear Melbourne City are the A-League’s new team to beat.
They celebrated their win with gusto and had the usually taciturn Kisnorbo waxing lyrical following the full-time whistle.
One of the first things he did was thank Fox Sports and their presenters after the game.
After 16 years and more than 2000 fixtures, Foxtel’s long-running broadcast of the A-League ended last night.
The panel of Tara Rushton, Robbie Slater and Mark Bosnich signed off with some genuine emotion, before a six-minute highlight reel reminded us of everything Fox Sports has done for football and brought back a flood of amazing memories.
— A-League (@ALeague) June 27, 2021
And if the last two COVID-riddled seasons have taught us anything, it’s that we can never again take for granted things like having a football league to follow.
The A-League gets a fresh start and a clean slate on a new broadcaster next season.
But we, as football fans, need to play our part if the competition is to get back to those halcyon days.
Because there’s no point securing a new broadcaster if no one subscribes to it or buys memberships to support their club.
This is our game. It’s time to make the A-League great again.