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SYDNEY, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Rhyan Grant scored the extra-time winner with his chest as Sydney FC claimed a record fifth A-League title with a 1-0 victory over Melbourne City in a pulsating Australian championship final at Western Sydney Stadium on Sunday.
After 100 minutes of entertaining deadlock, the mullet-haired Socceroos full back ghosted in behind the defence to barrell a sublime angled pass from midfielder Luke Brattan into the net at the far post.
City, playing in their first final, fought to the bitter end but Sydney held on to retain the title, their third in fourth years, and move above four-times champions Melbourne Victory in the list of most decorated A-League clubs.
Sydney had dominated the 11-month season, which was halted for 16 weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak and needed all three Melbourne-based teams and the Wellington Phoenix to relocate to New South Wales to finish it.
“Happy days!” man-of-the-match Grant said after celebrating in front of a small, socially distanced but vocal crowd at the home of Sydney FC’s arch-rivals Western Sydney Wanderers.
“Credit to City, they started really well. We had to ride that out and take our chances when we took them. We just got a bit lucky, I reckon.”
A clash of strips meant City lined up in the red and white stripes Melbourne Heart wore from 2009 until 2014, when the club was bought and renamed by Abu Dhabi’s City Football Group and followed the rest of the stable by switching to a sky blue kit.
They made a blistering start with Jamie Maclaren, the league’s top scorer, having a couple of half chances to add to his season’s tally of 22 and Craig Noone having a shot cleared off the line.
City appeared to have been rewarded for their early pressure in the 18th minute when the ball broke to Harrison Delbridge on the edge of the penalty box and the centre back powered it into the net.
VAR had been restored to the A-league for the playoffs, however, and, after reviewing the footage, referee Chris Beath decided goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne had been unsighted by a City player in an offside position.
Sydney were galvanised by the let-off and soon English striker Adam Le Fondre was causing problems around the City area, including an appeal for a penalty that was waved away in the 28th minute.
The reigning champions came closest to breaking the deadlock in the second half with good chances for Le Fondre, Milos Ninkovic and Paulo Retre in quick succession.
City hit back on the break with efforts from Noone and Scott Galloway which Redmayne handled comfortably and despite all the goalmouth action, the contest headed towards extra time and Grant’s unorthodox winner. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ed Osmond)
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