Melbourne Victory win Grand Final
  Sat 28th Feb 2009
2008/2009 Hyundai A-League - Grand Final between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United at Telstra Dome
Melbourne Victory 1 (Tom Pondeljak 59') defeated Adelaide United 0
Source: Back of the Net
Melbourne Victory added more silverware to its burgeoning trophy room after Joe Marston medallist Tom Pondeljak's goal on the hour was enough to win the Championship game against Adelaide United in front of a full house at Docklands Stadium on Saturday evening. The Championship win, together with triumphs this season in the Premiership, and the pre-season Cup, means that the club has completed an unprecedented treble.

Adelaide and Melbourne both finished with ten men on the park. Cristiano went for Adelaide after ten minutes, and Danny Allsopp for Melbourne on the hour. Indeed, Melbourne's last nervous seconds had just nine manning the ramparts as Rodrigo Vargas was compelled to leave the field after a cut above his right ear had re-opened, and Adelaide had all outfielders in attack.

The cut had been initiated by Cristiano's elbow after barely eleven minutes of the Grand Final when he and the Adelaide striker had both jumped in an aerial challenge, but the Brazilian had recklessly used his elbow, collecting Vargas squarely above his ear, requiring Vargas to leave the field as blood streamed down his face.

Adelaide coach Aurelio Vidmar thought the dismissal unwarranted, but the instruction to referees is clear: any elbow making such contact must result in a red card for the offender. "I haven't seen the replay, but I've been told that there was absolutely nothing in it, so until I have a good look at the replay, there's not much (I) can say, really."

"I felt we had the upper hand (but) unfortunately, when you go down to ten men, it made it very difficult," he said.

In contrast with Vidmar's damning comments about his players after his side's four-goal capitulation earlier in the Finals series, he was pleased at their battling performance, even if he didn't get the result he sought. "I couldn't be any prouder for the players tonight," he said. "It was a fantastic effort. They did everyone proud. They did the state proud, they did themselves proud. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't go your way."

Victory coach Ernie Merrick was understandably beaming as he spoke about the evening's rewards. "To win the Championship is just fantastic," he said. "I think the whole year has been great, from the pre-season Cup, to the Premier's Plate, and now this one. It probably wasn't pretty, it was an edgy sort of game, it was a tough game. We gutsed it out right to the end, and that's a sign of a Championship team."

"It's just been a great year for the club, these players, our fantastic supporters," Merrick said.

Vidmar was also aggrieved at the turning down by Breeze of a penalty claim in the game's first moments when Scott Jamieson went to ground under challenge from Nick Ward. "I thought there were good claims for a penalty," he said.

Cristiano's dismissal required Vidmar to alter his game-plan. Up until then, Adelaide had committed forward forces. But for the rest of the half, Adelaide was content to defend and to require Melbourne to make the play. With the tenacious manner in which Adelaide went about its defensive duties, Melbourne had little room in which to work, and no time on the ball.

Jonas Salley was particularly relentless in his shackling of Melbourne play-maker Carlos Hernandez who had been the catalyst for Melbourne's steam-rollering of Adelaide in the semi-final second leg a fortnight previously, and who, because of Salley's attentions, was unable to exert anything near that level of influence this time. On the only occasion Hernandez wriggled free, his cross was only just scrambled away by Eugene Galekovic with Allsopp ready to pounce.

The capacity Docklands crowd, naturally overwhelmingly favouring the home team, was silenced by the unfolding drama and Melbourne's seeming inability to create chances. For any visiting team, a silent Docklands is a signal there are nerves a-jangle on the terracing, and likely also on the pitch. Adelaide was making a fair fist of strangling the game, Melbourne was finding it impossible to take charge.

Allsopp created a sharp chance just before the half-hour when he turned quickly at the edge of the eighteen-yard area to shoot, only to be denied by an equally sharp save from Galekovic, once again effective in the Adelaide goal.

However, by the opening moments of the second-half, it was clear Adelaide had changed into a more adventurous outfit, playing just three at the back. Any neutral observer would be entitled to the view that Adelaide's endeavours should have been rewarded in that period. Victory goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos used a foot to keep out a shot from Jamieson after some clever work up the right by Daniel Mullen had allowed a pin-point cross deep into the penalty-area.

That save caused Adelaide assistant coach Phil Stubbins to throw a sheaf of papers forcefully to the ground in frustrated rage. It was a heart-breaker for the Adelaide support, and must have meant the Adelaide players feared yet another game against Melbourne was not going their way. It had been a barren season for the Reds against Melbourne this campaign with all three league encounters going narrowly Melbourne's way. It only needed one of these three to have had a different result and it would have been Adelaide's Premiership.

In another promising Adelaide attack, Travis Dodd skipped by challenges from Sebastian Ryall, Vargas, and Kevin Muscat to the forward edge of the penalty-area but his shot was tame after such promising beginnings, and Theoklitos found it easy to hold.

So when Pondeljak scored on the hour, after it seemed Adelaide had wrested control of the game and had Melbourne grimly holding on, it must have felt as if the whole season was being reprised in the season's ultimate game.

The goal came from innocuous beginnings. Evan Berger had just replaced Ward and took a throw near the half-way line, exchanging possession with Archie Thompson. As Berger travelled up the left wing, he back-heeled the ball to Pondeljak which opened space inside for the diminutive veteran to exploit. As no Adelaide player closed him down, Pondeljak shot from some distance. Salley failed to make contact with the ball as it arrived inside the penalty-area, unsighting Galekovic, who was then unable to prevent the ball from hitting the net low at the far-post.

Only minutes after Pondeljak's goal which should have provided a comfortable margin given Adelaide's player deficit, Melbourne's grip on the game loosened, as Allsopp foolishly became involved in an off-the-ball incident with Robbie Cornthwaite, resulting in his dismissal for violent conduct, and bringing the player-numbers back into balance.

Adelaide now completely dispensed with its first-half shut-down tactics to take the game up to Melbourne. In a frantic last fifteen minutes, Adelaide played with just one defender, putting all resources into winning the goal which would take the game into extra-time. Right to the last, as Mullen hurled in a long throw into the penalty-area as it was filled with red shirts, no Victory fan could be assured of the win.

Substitute Cassio, who ended his game prematurely on his last visit to this stadium, dismissed after his second caution, created Adelaide's best opportunity of the half seven minutes from time. His cross cried out for the slightest of touches which would have sent it into the net, but fellow substitute Paul Agostino failed to reach it. Luckily for Melbourne, Berger, who lunged for the ball, also failed to make contact, as he surely would have managed an own-goal had he done so.

Match Report by Alan Clark (referee rating by FootballNews)

Melbourne Victory 1 (Tom Pondeljak 59') defeated Adelaide United 0
Match Statistics:
Crowd: 53273

Melbourne Victory FC :
Player listing:
(4-4-2) 1 Michael Theoklitos (gk), 5 Sebastian Ryall, 2 Kevin Muscat (c), 12 Rodrigo Vargas, 7 Matthew Kemp, 22 Nick Ward (19 Evan Berger [+55] (17 Jose Luis Lopez [+88])), 14 Billy Celeski, 16 Carlos Hernandez, 15 Tom Pondeljak (8 Grant Brebner [+82]), 10 Archie Thompson, 9 Daniel Allsopp

Substitutes not used: 20. Mitchell Langerak (rgk), 11 Ney Fabiano

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Yellow Cards: Tom Pondeljak 59'
Red Cards: Danny Allssop 64'

Adelaide United FC :
Player listing:
(4-5-1) 20 Eugene Galekovic (gk), 2 Robert Cornthwaite, 19 Sasa Ognenovski, 14 Scott Jamieson (6 Cassio [+73]), 16 Daniel Mullen, 13 Travis Dodd (c), 24 Paul Reid, 15 Jonas Salley, 18 Fabian Barbiero, 7 Lucas Pantelis (9 Paul Agostino [+62]), 10 Cristiano

Substitutes not used: 27 Michael Marrone, 28 Rostyn Griffiths, 30 Mark Birighitti (rgk)

Coach: Aurelio Vidmar

Yellow Cards: Sasha Ognenovski (37), Scott Jamieson [55], Robert Cornthwaite [80], Travis Dodd [90]
Red Cards: Cristiano

Referee: Matthew Breeze, 1 / 10
Pitch: 7 / 10
Game: 7 / 10

Best Players:
3. Tom Pondeljak (Melbourne Victory)
2. Jonas Salley (Adelaide United)
1. Paul Reid (Adelaide United)
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