A shattered Sydney FC have suffered a soul-crushing 2-1 defeat in injury-time of their A-League elimination final on Friday night, after a brave performance against arch rivals Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium.
Brazilian sensation Gui Finkler scored the abrupt winner for the home side in the 93rd minute after some pro-active lead-up work from defensive duo Pablo Contreras and Adama Traore, just as the game appeared destined for extra-time.
In what was a typical end-to-end Big Blue battle, the Sky Blues arguably dominated the majority of the match and had the better of the chances, but were denied once by the woodwork just before half-time and twice by heroic saves from Victory keeper Nathan Coe in the second stanza.
The most prolific A-League striker in history, Archie Thompson, put Melbourne in front midway through the first-half, after Contreras had dispossessed Sydney marquee Alessandro Del Piero in the middle of the pitch, before James Troisi eventually set Thompson one-on-one with Sky Blues custodian Vedran Janjetovic.
But, having started somewhat slowly out of the gates, the visitors finished the opening period as the better side, and were rewarded with a goal to right-back Seb Ryall, who netted his fifth – and third against the Victory – of the season, following good lead-up work by Del Piero and Ali Abbas.
Del Piero was then denied by the upright soon after, as Sydney took all the momentum into the break. And they started the second-half in exactly the same fashion that they’d finished the first, with Coe twice proving the thorn in their side, firstly off a venomous Matt Jurman header and then from a Joel Chianese chip.
Contreras was lucky not to receive a second yellow card for a cynical challenge on Del Piero with time winding down, before going on to play a key role in Finkler’s heart-breaking match winner.
The Sky Blues will now turn their attention to two major off-field decisions for the club; whether or not they offer Del Piero a contract extension for next season, and whether or not they choose to stick with the often disparaged Frank Farina as coach.
ADP has hinted that he would like to stay for another season, but the board may opt to go in a different direction, rather than splash more big money the soon-to-be 40-year-old’s way.
And it has been reported that Farina needed to reach the top-four this campaign to keep his job, but – given the tightness of the A-League ladder this season – a fifth placed finish and a strong showing against Melbourne may be enough to convince the Sydney board that the former Socceroos boss deserves another year at the helm.
Have your say: Are you proud of the way the Sky Blues performed in their elimination final? And what are your thoughts on the decisions regarding ADP and Farina?