Grant v Ikonomidis: The Caltex Socceroos match up that could decide the Hyundai A-League 2019 Grand Final
There are individual battles across the pitch in Sunday's Hyundai A-League 2019 Grand Final between Perth Glory and Sydney FC which whet the appetite.
But among the most intriguing is that between two in-form Caltex Socceroos: Perth’s NAB Young Footballer of the Year Chris Ikonomidis, and Sydney’s always-brilliant Rhyan Grant.
As well as playing outstanding roles in helping their respective sides march to the 2018/19 big dance, Ikonomidis and Grant enjoyed breakout moments with the Australia national team this season.
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Ikonomidis, 24, was one of Graham Arnold’s standouts in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, in which the versatile forward contributed a goal against Syria and two assists in an eye-catching display against Palestine.
The 28-year-old Grant, meanwhile, established himself as Arnold’s first-choice right fullback ahead of Josh Risdon over five excellent performances.
With former La Liga veteran Diego Castro holding licence as Perth’s super star, and prolific Irish striker Andy Keogh unquestionably Tony Popovic’s most reliable goal-scorer, Ikonomidis has at times gone under the radar despite the impressive heights he reached in 2018/19.
But the seamless combination between Perth’s fluid, energetic and multi-skilled frontline – in which Ikonomidis has offered a return of nine goals and five assists in 19 matches – will ensure all three are flagged as dangers to Sydney’s hopes of upsetting the odds in WA.
Glory taskmaster Popovic deployed the former Lazio talent in central, wide and withdrawn attacking roles en route to the club's Premiers Plate triumph, and Ikonomidis has excelled no matter the configuration of Perth’s attack.
Despite his versatility it's unlikely that Ikonomidis, born in Cronulla, will have a direct confrontation with his Caltex Socceroos teammate Grant, who has occupied Sydney’s right fullback position with gold standards this campaign.
But if the pair are to face off, fireworks should be anticipated – and fans can expect the relentless Grant to offer a considerable attacking danger to the Glory defence when bursting up the right touchline – mullet in tow – in what has become trademark fashion.
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A three-time Premiership and two-time Championship winner with the team he has been with all his Hyundai A-League career, the iron-lunged Grant has the ability to overlap and provide accurate delivery from all areas of the opposition half.
He may only have two assists in 21 matches to his name in 2018/19, but the ammunition Grant provides for the likes of Adam Le Fondre, Alex Brosque and the rest of Sydney's attacking options is invariably on the money.