For the fourth time in 13 seasons, Melbourne Victory are A-league champions. After defeating title favourites, Sydney FC, 3-2 in an unforgettable A-League semi-final the previous week, Victory were again put through the wringer. It was a gruelling A-League Grand Final clash with the Newcastle Jets, However, not for the first time this finals series, Victory were up to the task. The 1-0 win meant Victory became the first team in league history to win a Grand Final after finishing the regular season in fourth position.
Unfortunately, for many people, this final with be remembered for two key moments of controversy.
Victory player, Kostas Barbarouses, scored in the ninth minute – the earliest goal in A-League grand final history. It was a goal from scrappy play, that occurred after a free kick. In the commotion of the play, it was clear in the replay that Victory players had gone too early past the Jets defence, meaning it was a move that was offside, which should have overturned the goal.
— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) May 5, 2018
To compound the mistake, the transgression went without any challenge from the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), due to technical difficulties. it was reported afterwards that technical equipment failure made VAR Craig Zetter unable to view the play in question, and as a result he made no intervention and the Victory goal stood.
Should @gomvfc's opener stood?
— FOX SPORTS Football (@FOXFootballLive) May 5, 2018
Newcastle Jets Manager, Ernie Merrick, showed his disappointment in an interview after the game, saying “the early goal made his side’s task of breaking the Victory down even tougher”.
Due to an incredible goal-keeping display from Victory’s Lawrence Thomas, the Jets were unable to break through with any of their 14 shots on goal. Four of Thomas’s saves were freakish and critical to keeping the opposition scoreless. Thomas was an integral part of the action, never more so than in the final couple of minutes, nearing the game’s fever-pitch end, when, in an act of desperation, Newcastle forward Roy O’Donovan made a flying kick for the ball that ended in his boot colliding with Thomas’s face.
— Evan Morgan Grahame (@Evan_M_G) May 5, 2018
O’Donovan received an immediate red card and was sent off. However, Thomas finished the match on the field, bandaged like a mummy, and went on to win the Joe Marston Medal for the best player in the Grand Final. The win was a great reward for the four thousand Victory fans, who had made the trip to Newcastle to support their team. The player showed their heartfelt appreciation walking over to the section where their fans were sitting, to celebrate with them.
— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) May 5, 2018
It wouldn’t have been lost on the fans that this title was all the more precious, considering how hard they had to work all season. Victory Manager, Kevin Muscat, sums it up perfectly saying ’’The amount of adversity, challenges and obstacles we have had to jump has been phenomenal”.