In March of 2010, Sydney FC had a plucky Wellington Phoenix outfit standing in their way of a second ever grand final appearance for the club, when the two sides met in the preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Sky Blues went into the clash with an ominous home record of 12 wins from 15 matches during the 2009-2010 A-League season, and the Premiers’ Plate winners – playing their first of three seasons under pragmatic Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka – were expected to cruise past the visitors.
The final score of 4-2 may suggest a comfortable win for Sydney, but in truth it was a tough old evening for the home side, with a controversial first-half goal to young substitute Chris Payne the main talking point afterwards.
Payne had replaced an injured John Aloisi in the 19th minute, before the Manly United junior had an instant impact just a minute later, when he showed good strength and composure to slot home the game’s opening goal.
But it was Payne’s second, which came just two minutes after Andrew Durante’s equaliser for the Phoenix, that left Wellington fans furious at referee Peter Green, as the ball clearly made contact with Payne’s hand – not his head or outstretched foot – before beating future Sky Blues keeper Liam Reddy.
In the second-half, the Killer Bs, Alex Brosque and Mark Bridge, put the game beyond doubt for Sydney with two counter-attack goals, before Eugene Dadi scored a late consolation goal for the Nix.
The Sky Blues went on to claim their second A-League championship a week later in Melbourne, beating the Victory on penalties after a cagey 0-0 draw.
Payne secured a move to the North Queensland Fury the following season, scoring four goals in his 21 appearances for the club. His career has since stalled and he is now once again plying his trade for Manly in the NSW Premier League.
Sydney FC 4 (Payne 21’, 31’, Brosque 63’, Bridge 71’)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Durante 27’, Dadi 81’)
Referee: Peter Green