History made! Thomas the hero as Victory crowned Champions
Melbourne Victory are the Hyundai A-League Champions. Again!
For the fourth time in the club’s rich history, they have came out on top in the competition’s showpiece match – edging Newcastle Jets 1-0 in front of a fervent capacity crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Never before has a club been so successful in the Grand Final. And never before has a team won it from fourth place in the Regular Season - until now.
Kosta Barbarouses will go down as the man who sealed the crown for Victory, scoring the earliest ever goal in a Hyundai A-League Grand Final just nine minutes in.
But it will be goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas who was the game’s hero, producing three immense first half saves as the Jets pushed for an equaliser.
After Barbarouses scrambled the ball home from a set piece, the hosts roared forward in search of a goal. Yet every time they mustered up a prime opening, Thomas was in the right place at the right time.
First, he dived low to his left to stop Roy O’Donovan’s flicked shot from point blank range. By the time Thomas Deng had cleared the rebounds, O’Donovan was left to wonder how he had been denied.
Next it was Riley McGree and Jason Hoffman to be left bemused by Thomas’ reflexes. McGree had squirmed free in the box and fired a goalbound shot that looked destined for the bottom corner. Thomas met it with a big left hand.
Then, as Hoffman attempted to prod the loose ball in from all of five metres, Thomas was up and got a crucial touch to deflect the shot for a corner.
Those moments proved inspirational. For much of the first half Victory had been at the behest of Newcastle and they completed just 51 passes as the Jets managed 11 shots.
For their next shot, it took Newcastle until the 75th minute, such was the shift in the balance of the match after the interval.
The hosts pushed late in front of 29,410 fans – with so many urging on the Jets – but it proved that Victory came closest to finding the back of the net as James Troisi struck the woodwork.
STORY OF THE GRAND FINAL
9' GOAL – Kosta Barbarouses got Melbourne Victory off to the perfect start with the earliest ever goal in a Hyundai A-League Grand Final, firing home a James Donachie knockdown via a Johnny Koutroumbis deflection.
15' CHANCE – Jason Hoffman so nearly got on the end of a dangerous Dimitri Petratos free kick after Lawrence Thomas came and missed the cross, but the goalkeeper did enough to put off the Jets attacker who put his shot wide.
17' SAVE – An incredible save from Thomas to deny Roy O’Donovan after brilliant link up play between Petratos and Koutroumbis led to a free shot in the middle of the six-yard box.
26' SAVE – Glen Moss was forced into action for the first time in his first ever Grand Final, parrying a Leroy George shot out for a corner after a rapid Victory counter attack set off by Carl Valeri deep in his own half.
31' DOUBLE SAVE – “He is as close to unbeatable as we’ve ever seen,” raved FOX Sports commentator Andy Harper after Thomas again denied Victory – this time with a sublime dive low to his left to stop Riley McGree and then the immediate follow up for a near certain Jason Hoffman effort.
71’ OUCH! – Victory came close to a second goal with 20 minutes remaining as Besart Berisha aimed to get on the end of a cross from a metre out. Instead, O’Donovan was brave with his defending on the line and copped a nasty cut under his eye which swelled up immediately.
86’ POST – James Troisi was denied by the upright after he danced into the box and found room to fire with his left foot at the near post of Moss’ goal.
93’ RED CARD – O’Donovan absolutely clattered Thomas with a high boot from a free kick which left the Victory goalkeeper battered and his head strapped up as referee Jarred Gillett issued a straight red card.