SYDNEY (Reuters) - Milos Ninkovic converted the winning penalty as Sydney FC capped a record-breaking season with a 4-2 shootout triumph against Melbourne Victory to clinch a third A-League title at Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.
Ninkovic, voted the league’s best player, had stepped up immediately after his goalkeeper Danny Vukovic saved a Marco Rojas attempt in the shootout, following a scrappy Grand Final that had ended locked at 1-1 after extra time.
Sydney’s Alex Wilkinson and Melbourne captain Carl Valeri also missed their attempts in the shootout.
”That penalty shootout went so quickly and I can’t believe we have won it,“ Vukovic said. ”Pure elation. I don’t know what I would have done had I lost my fourth.
“That was my fourth grand final and we’ve done it and done it in style.”
The spiteful match was blighted by almost 60 fouls and 11 yellow cards, and ended deadlocked after Melbourne’s Besart Barisha had opened the scoring in the 21st minute before Sydney’s Rhyan Grant equalised with 20 minutes remaining.
Melbourne’s James Troisi was unlucky not to win the game in the 109th minute when his right foot volley cannoned off Vukovic’s right upright, while Sydney’s David Carney wasted an opportunity when he sliced his shot wide in the 115th minute.
Sydney had recorded the most dominant season in the competition’s 12-year history with 20 wins and one defeat in 27 matches and Melbourne, despite finishing second in the league, had been given little chance of securing their fourth title.
Victory, however, refused to give Sydney any time on the ball from the outset with their players flying into tackles, which created several confrontations.
Kosovo international Berisha opened the scoring when he was given space to run at the Sydney defence, turned his marker and unleashed a left foot shot from the edge of the box past Vukovic.
Tensions boiled over in the 34th minute following a clumsy challenge by Melbourne’s Leigh Broxham on Ninkovic that prompted an all-in melee and ended with referee Jarred Gillett issuing yellow cards to Ninkovic, Sydney midfielder Filip Holosko and Melbourne’s James Troisi.
Sydney dominated the second half and finally equalised when a shot from Carney was parried by Lawrence Thomas onto his post and cleared off the line by Berisha only for defender Grant to poke the ball home.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien