Sydney FC too good for Melbourne Victory in A-League grand final rematch

VINCE RUGARI
Last updated 01:20 08/10/2017
QUINN ROONEY/GETTY IMAGES

Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas watches on as Sydney FC's Bobo celebrates the only goal of the match.

QUINN ROONEY/GETTY IMAGES
Victory striker Besart Berisha controls the ball.
QUINN ROONEY/GETTY IMAGES
Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas watches in despair as the ball goes over the line for an own-goal.

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A-League champions Sydney FC continued their streak of dominance over Melbourne Victory, winning 1-0 in Saturday night's grand final rematch.

An own-goal from defender Thomas Deng early in the second half was all the Sky Blues needed as they opened their title defence with an assured, confident performance in front of 24,808 fans at Etihad Stadium.

Deng, 20, couldn't react quickly enough when a cross from Luke Wilkshire took the slightest glance off Alex Brosque's forehead and landed at his feet.

The ball spilled off him and past Lawrence Thomas's outstretched glove to give the visitors the lead in the 53rd minute.

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It was Sydney's fourth win a row against their "Big Blue" rivals after Graham Arnold's men prevailed in all three A-League fixtures last season, then again on penalties in the grand final.

Victory's last win over Sydney was in January 2016.

Deng was making his return appearance for Victory after spending last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven.

He was also playing out of position at left-back, with the absence of Melbourne's international trio Mark Milligan, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses - plus a hamstring injury to Argentine recruit Matias Sanchez - forcing coach Kevin Muscat into a reshuffle.

Another new signing, Dutch winger Leroy George, started in attacking midfield despite lacking match fitness and lasted just more than an hour before he was replaced by Tasmanian product Josh Hope, who made his A-League debut.

Sydney were missing their usual left-back, the injured Michael Zullo, but were otherwise at full strength and seemed every bit the well-oiled machine they were last season.

They were troubled early by Victory's high press but eventually came into their own and finished the first half as the better side.

While the game opened up after that and Melbourne took control for much of the second stanza, Sydney were good enough to snuff out the chances they generated in their mad push for an equaliser.

Besart Berisha went closest to levelling the scores in the 63rd minute but his attempt, like many others, was blocked by the resolute Sky Blues' defence.

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Arnold hailed his team's rearguard effort and the grinding nature of the win but said his side were only at 30 per cent of their capabilities.

"After 97 days of preseason ... you can work as hard as you want but, once you get into the action, then it's a step up in intensity," he said.

"Normally every year, the first three or four rounds, it's feeling out time and getting rid of the rust and we go from there."

Muscat said he wasn't disheartened with the result.

"Not the start (we wanted) in terms of the return of points but I was fairly pleased," he said.

"I'm disappointed for the boys because I thought we were worth something tonight."

- AAP

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