Every day this week, commentator Simon Hill looks at some of the key Grand Fiinal performances over the years… and who could be centre stage this year.
Big games require big performances from big players – especially the goalscorers.
1985 – FAB INCANTALUPO (Sydney City v Brunswick Juventus)
More of a winger than an out and out striker, Incantalupo had a wand of a left foot, and scored the two goals in the two-legged final against Sydney City, both of which Brunswick won 1-0.
Pace was not necessarily his forte, and he didn’t possess great power in that left peg, but both strikes were an exercise in precision placement. Incantalupo was a home-grown player who had God-like status among the supporters – and the supporting cast, containing the likes of Yakka Banovic, Brian Brown, Paul Wade, Mickey Petersen and Mehmet Durakovic, weren’t bad either.
But Sydney City were full of (then) current Socceroos – Frank Farina, John Kosmina, Dave Mitchell, Steve O’Connor & Joe Watson. John Margaritis’s side defended for their lives after taking the lead in the first leg at St George Stadium in Sydney, and finished off the job in Melbourne four days later.
2006/2007 – ARCHIE THOMPSON (Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United)
In 2001, Thompson had scored 13 for Australia in a 31-0 win against American Samoa. But this day in February 2007 was perhaps even more satisfying for the 54-times capped Socceroo.
Five goals in a Grand Final is a record unlikely to ever be broken, although credit must also be given to Fred, the Brazilian creator who assisted four of them.
Amazingly, Thompson had failed to score in eight previous attempts against the Reds before the big occasion at (the then) Telstra Dome. He certainly put that right, making it a total of 15 for the season, adding the golden boot and the Joe Marston Medal to Victory’s first-ever Championship (and Premiership).
2007/2008 – MARK BRIDGE (Newcastle Jets v Central Coast Mariners)
Of the 32 Grand Finals (NSL/A-League) since the one-off decider was constituted in 1988, only eight have been decided by more than a single goal. Therefore, one moment of inspiration (or a mistake) can often settle the destiny of the silverware.
In 2008, we had both. In a tight contest between these two F3 rivals, the Mariners Tony Vidmar dallied in possession, and Bridge – like any good striker should – pounced. He still had a lot to do, but his shot from outside the box simply flew past Danny Vukovic to take the trophy to Newcastle.
Bridge would score again in a Grand Final for Sydney (against Melbourne Victory in 2010), where he would earn a second winners medal – but this goal will live longer in the memory, particularly for Jets fans.
2011/12 – BESART BERISHA (Brisbane Roar v Perth Glory)
No-one in history (NSL or A-League) has scored in more Grand Finals than Besart Berisha, but this was his first big contribution.
Trailing 1-0 to Glory thanks to an Ivan Franjic own goal, Berisha drew Roar level with a bullet header at the near post with only six minutes remaining. But the winner arrived in hugely controversial circumstances, with Berisha himself going down in the box under the weight of a Liam Miller challenge in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Glory insisted there had been no contact, but Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot, and Berisha duly tucked away the winner to give Roar back-to-back titles. He would go on to score in three more final day showdowns – one for Roar (2014), and two for Melbourne Victory (2015, 2017), but this was the day he became a cult hero in Brisbane – and a villain in Perth.
And who’ll step up in 2020? Bobô has enjoyed a hugely successful return to the A-League, netting a dozen goals in Sydney’s charge to the Grand Final. Will he deliver on the big occasion? He normally does.
A-League Grand Final – Match Details
Melbourne City v Sydney FC
Sunday, June 27 2021
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 5.05pm AEST