MELBOURNE May 1 Australian soccer has long lamented the woeful state of the nation's playing surfaces and the domestic A-League faces embarrassment when the championship decider between Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC kicks off on Sunday.
The pitch at Sydney Football Stadium, the venue for the game's national showpiece, was in appalling condition during Saturday's semi-final between the home side and Perth Glory, having hosted a top-flight National Rugby League match the previous evening.
Ground staff will again be tasked with 'Mission Impossible' to get the turf up to scratch in time for Sunday's A-League 'Grand Final', with a Super Rugby match between local team New South Wales Waratahs and the Auckland Blues scheduled the night before.
Australia's national coach Ange Postecoglou has often complained that the local game is being held back due to the country's shoddy pitches and maintains his Socceroos are disadvantaged against international opponents who have honed their skills on carpet-like surfaces.
Neither Sydney nor Melbourne will be able to have a customary familiarisation session at the SFS the day before the match and will instead train at suburban grounds.
Victory also share tenancy at their home Melbourne Rectangular Stadium with two professional rugby clubs but have looked askance at the Sydney pitch where players on Saturday were seen grimly scraping away clots of mud from the soles of their boots.
"It’s dreadful," Victory defender Daniel Georgievski told local media on Monday.
"You can't be playing a semi-final -- and now a final -- on a ground like I saw on Saturday night. Hopefully they pull their socks up and make the pitch as good as they can.
"The stadium itself is absolutely fine, but you need to fix that pitch up for a grand final.
"It’s harsh words, but it’s the truth.
"For AFL grand finals, NRL grand finals, the pitch is always perfect, we've got to have the same.
"That said, we've both got to play on it, so it doesn’t disadvantage one team over another."
There was certainly no perceptible disadvantage for twice champions Sydney on Saturday as their fleet-heeled forwards and midfielders tore around the pitch to defeat Perth Glory 3-0.
Sydney and Victory meet in their third Grand Final, with the visitors seeking a record fourth title after winning in 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2014-15. (Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)