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Melbourne City FC
Melbourne City FC
It’s the grand final of the eternal 2019-20 A-League season and the two best teams in the land, Sydney FC and Melbourne City, face each other for the trophy at Bankwest Stadium on Sunday evening at 6:30 pm (AEST). Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match.
It’s two evenly matched sides squaring off for the title of Australian premier. Both Sydney and City boast the Golden Boot frontrunners, Jamie Maclaren (23 goals) and Adam le Fondre (21), and both sides topped the A-League scoring with 49 goals apiece.
They finished one and two at the end of the regular season, had 2-0 wins in the semi-finals and now lead us to the finish line of the most tumultuous season in A-League history.
Their matching 2-0 wins were symmetrical in result only. Sydney, in rotten form since the resumption, winning only one game of their last five, regained some of their ruthlessness and punished Perth Glory’s defensive lapses, maintaining the upper hand throughout.
Melbourne City, on the other hand, defended grimly at times to weather the attacks of new boys Western United, but they had more cunning and nous – plus the talented Tom Glover in goal – when it mattered to find a victory through a penalty and an own goal.
This is the first national league winter grand final since 1989, when Marconi pinched an injury-time winner over Sydney Olympic. Both tonight’s game and the 1989 final are rare August grand finals, as the 1989 NSL season started early to finish early ahead of the first summer season in 1989-90.
As this game looms as the last summer finale, the symmetry with 1989 won’t be lost on Sydney coach Steve Corica, who started his career with Marconi the following season.
This game will also be momentous for other reasons. With the salary cap destined to be reduced after this season to manage falling revenue, this game will likely be a swansong for international stars Adam le Fondre and Craig Noone. Milos Ninkovic has another year of a deal next season, but if he’s asked to take a pay cut, he may walk away.
With money tighter than ever, next season’s A-League, with its partial shift towards winter, will look more like the NSL than ever before, especially with its greater reliance on young and old Australian talent.
City manager Erick Mombaerts, who has provided Australian fans with so many terrific memes this season, has already bid adieu to Melbourne City, though not the City group entirely. He departs after this game for Troyes AC in the French second division. Former Socceroo and incumbent assistant Patrick Kisnorbo is primed to take his place from next season.
But before all of that upheaval both teams have a trophy to earn. Both are at full strength with the exception of City’s Scott Jamieson, who left the Sydney Hub for family reasons. Sydney left-back Michael Zullo returns for the Sky Blues and should come in for the inexperienced Joel King, who started against Perth.
In a tribute to their foundation fans and to incoming manager Kisnorbo, who finished his playing career with Melbourne Heart, City will be wearing the red and white vertical stripes tonight. In their tenth season in the A-League this game represents their greatest achievement in the league thus far, and fans who stuck with the club through the City takeover will be rapt to see the red and white on centre stage.
This should be a thriller – and should help repress the memories of last season’s grand final shocker. Both sides have strike power, both sides like to move the ball quickly and both have a mix of experience and energy. But ultimately only one side has Milos Ninkovic. For sheer string-pulling ability, Milos, who could be playing his final game in Australia, is unrivalled in this league and should be the difference-maker.
Sydney to win 2-1.
Kick-off: 6:30pm (AEST)
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
TV: Fox Sports, ABC ME (delayed at 8:25pm)
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel, MyFootballLive App, ABC iView
Odds: Sydney FC $2.40, Melbourne City FC $2.88, draw $3.30