On Saturday night, in front of a packed house of over 53,000 at the Dome formerly known as Telstra, the Melbourne Victory became the first club in A-League history to win the Grand Final twice and to win all three trophies in a single season (Pre-Season Cup, Premiers and Grand Final Champions).
It was far from pretty. A red card for Adelaide United’s Cristiano in the 10th minute drew my cheers – until I got home and saw how bad a decision that was. Matthew Breeze, in one foul swoop, not only gave Adelaide cause to blame their loss on a refereeing failure, but also robbed Victory fans of the satisfaction of having won fair and square. Granted, I’m not sure the scoreline would have been much different if Adelaide had had 11 men all night; but that’s mere conjecture.
Adelaide started strongly, but the red card saw them retreat into their own half. The rest of the second half played out like this: Melbourne gets the ball, attacks, fumbles it/is intercepted, Adelaide boots the ball up the field, straight back to a Melbourne player. To their credit, Adelaide sowed up the holes that gaped so profoundly against Melbourne two weeks ago; Jonas Salley played a critical role in marking Carlos Hernández, who was rarely allowed room to move more than a few steps.
Adelaide came out attacking in the second half. And they would have had a goal if it hadn’t been for a brilliant save by Michael Theoklitos. Minutes later, a freshly substituted Evan Berger backheeled the ball to Tom Pondeljak, who unleashed a brilliant strike from outside the penalty area, catching Eugene Galekovic off-guard and bringing the crowd to life.
At this point, with Melbourne a goal up and Adelaide a man down, it looked like an impossible task for the visitors. But a few minutes later, Melbourne with a free kick, a cafuffle broke out in the penalty area. Players shoved each other, and Eugene Galekovic ran all the way to the half way line to give Carlos Hernández a shove. Surely a red card offence. But no. Breeze gives a red to Danny Allsopp. From the replay I’ve seen, this appears to have been in another poor decision. All in all, Breeze gave two red cards that probably shouldn’t have been given, and failed to give the one that should have been (for Galekovic). Not a great night for Australia’s alleged number 1 referee…
With Melbourne reduced to 10 men, Adelaide were given a fresh breath of hope. But the side that hadn’t scored against Melbourne in their previous three games was again unable to do so. In front of 53,273 , Matthew Breeze blew the full time whistle, announcing the new A-League Champions: Melbourne Victory.