CHAMPIONS! Sydney FC make history with Liberty A-League Grand Final triumph

Sydney FC have successfully defended their Liberty A-League crown after upstaging reigning premiers Melbourne City 1-0 in Saturday evening’s Grand Final.

Shea Connors was the difference at AAMI Park, where her 69th-minute strike guided Sydney to back-to-back Championships for the first time in their history.

The Sky Blues weathered a storm throughout the contest and waited for the the perfect moment to pounce, which they did 21 minutes from the end to snap City’s 100% record in Grand Finals following four previous wins from four appearances.

With the win, Sydney clinched a fifth Championship following a seventh successive Grand Final appearance – making them the most successful club in Liberty A-League history.

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Saturday was the culmination of a record-breaking season in the Liberty A-Leagues with more than 7,600 fans in attendance it making it the second largest Grand Final attendance ever.

Historic crowds flocked to games around the league after a memorable 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the fans were out in force once again for this season’s blockbuster decided at AAMI Park.

In the stands it was a who’s who of Liberty A-League stars – Golden Boot winner Michelle Heyman, Newcastle Jets forward Sarina Bolden, Melbourne Victory’s Alex Chidiac and Western United’s Grace Maher. There was even a warm embrace between Heyman and Bolden.

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On the field, Australia legend Melissa Barbieri made history in playing her first Liberty A-League Grand Final after Barbara was ruled out through injury. Aged 44, the City goalkeeper became the oldest player ever in the competition’s decider, breaking the record by eight years.

In the Sydney side, Princess Ibini became the first player in history to play eight Liberty A-League Grand Finals at the age of just 24.

Sydney almost took the lead inside the first minute but Barbieri passed the early test – keeping out the attempt from Jordan Thompson at her near post.

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A theme became evident from that point: City dominated possession and dictated play with the Sky Blues happy to sit back and pick off the hosts.

Sydney goalkeeper Jada Whyman needed to be at her best to keep the score level after producing a wonderful save to smother Hannah Wilkinson’s shot in what was a near-certain goal in the sixth minute.

There were flashes of brilliance from Daniela Galic and her teammates but they could not breach Sydney’s stubborn defence.

The Sky Blues nearly broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time. City captain Rebekah Stott slipped at the worst time, paving the way for Mackenzie Hawkesby to run through but she was not on the same page as Ibini with the golden chance petering out for nothing.

It was more of the same in the second half, with City on the front foot, while Sydney continued to absorb pressure.

Connors came off the bench to replace Ibini in the 67th minute and two minutes later, the American found the back of the net to silence AAMI Park.

Sydney had been waiting to pick off City and their moment came with 21 minutes remaining – Indiana Dos Santos played through Connors and the latter made no mistake as the Sky Blues celebrated wildly on the sidelines.

City had two golden opportunities to draw level inside the final 10 minutes of regulation.

Firstly, a goal-bound shot was somehow headed away over the bar before Rhiana Pollicina somehow blazed over the crossbar with the goal at her mercy inside a stunned AAMI Park.