Victory prevail in epic
Melbourne has prevailed 1-0 from a dramatic Hyundai A-League Grand Final, with Tom Pondeljak's wonder-strike on the hour the difference in a game which saw both sides have a player sent off.
Melbourne has prevailed 1-0 from a dramatic Hyundai A-League Grand Final at Telstra Dome, with Tom Pondeljak's wonder-strike on the hour the difference in a game which saw both sides have a player sent off.
Pondeljak's goal means Melbourne not only becomes the first two-time Championship winner in the A-League's history, but it also becomes the first team to win all three available trophies, the Pre-Season Cup, the Premiership and the Championship in the same year.
The veteran midfielder, who played in two losing Grand Final sides for the Central Coast Mariners, chanced his luck from distance on the hour, latching onto an Evan Berger back heel and then hitting a 25-yard effort which totally deceived Adelaide stopper Eugene Galekovic. He was later awarded the Joe Marston Medal.
The game erupted on nine minutes when Cristiano and Rody Vargas both contested for a high ball just outside the Adelaide box. The Brazilian's elbow connected with the side of Vargas' head leaving the Melbourne defender bleeding heavily from behind the ear.
Referee Matthew Breeze consulted at length with his linesman before producing a red card, while Vargas returned to the pitch with a bandage around his head soon after.
But the match could have easily turned Adelaide's way when on 65 minutes, Danny Allsopp was also sent off after an altercation which involved several members of both sides.
Adelaide searched desperately for an equaliser, but the Melbourne defence held firm in a tense finish to delight of much of the crowd of 53,273.
With a man advantage after just ten minutes, it was little surprise that it was Melbourne doing the bulk of the attacking. Matthew Kemp had a shot blocked, Carlos Hernandez went wide twice while Allsopp tested Galekovic with a well-taken effort all within the first 30 minutes.
Adelaide's best chances for the half came from Jonas Salley, when the midfielder met Scott Jamieson's free kick but headed just wide on 31 minutes.
With the Reds firmly set in defence, Melbourne was generally patient in the build-up, but was too quick to pull the trigger on a few occasions. Hernandez sent one way over the bar, while both Allsopp and Archie Thompson were frustrated by a lack of space in the box.
While Melbourne began the second half well, with Thompson having a shot blocked in the 48th minute, Adelaide was looking particularly dangerous on the counter attack.
Sasa Ognenovski had a shot blocked before Jamieson latched onto a cross, only to be denied by Michael Theoklitos' outstretched foot. Travis Dodd then beat three players but his shot was easily met by the Melbourne keeper.
The goal came out of nowhere. Berger, who had replaced Nick Ward, broke down the left and backheeled to Pondeljak. With five meters of space ahead of him, he strode clear and latched onto a curler which stunned the Adelaide defence.
But the drama was far from finished. After Fabian Barbiero was booked for foul, a disagreement broke out in the Melbourne penalty box after an altercation between Allsopp and Robert Cornthwaite. After a few mad minutes, Breeze restored order and dispatched Allsopp to the stands.
Melbourne was not deterred by losing its man advantage and Vargas, Thompson and Hernandez all had chances.
Jamieson came closest for Adelaide, curling an excellent free kick which had Theoklitos at full stretch. Paul Agostino also went close after coming on as a substitute.
The finish of the game was frantic, with the ball in Adelaide's attacking half for much of the final five minutes. But Melbourne was resolute and deservedly was crowned champion.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Pondeljak 60) Adelaide United 0 Crowd: 53,273 at Telstra Dome