It well and truly rained goals at a torrential Marconi Stadium on Sunday afternoon as Sydney United 58 broke their 14-year Grand Final hoodoo with a 4-3 triumph on penalties against 2020 Premiers Rockdale Ilinden.
The shootout came after they played out a pulsating 3-3 draw with premiers Rockdale Illinden over 120 minutes.
The Edensor Park boys were seeking redemption for their extra-time heartbreak in the 2019 big dance and achieved exactly that in dramatic fashion.
Marconi’s famous palace provided a worthy backdrop for a top-quality contest which saw six different scorers find the back of the net.
It only took ten minutes for Rockdale to draw first blood through a familiar source.
Mickey Neill, who opened the scoring in last weekend’s semi-final triumph, rose highest to divert Tomoki Wada’s set-piece beyond Danijel Nizic.
United 58 looked to strike back immediately as Matt Sim sent a sighter over the bar and a Devante Clut effort flicked a Glen Trifiro cross narrowly wide of the mark.
Minutes later, they restored parity in spectacular fashion.
With 16 minutes played, Trifiro stood over a free kick from the edge of the area and guided it expertly beyond David Bradasevic into the top left corner.
The match then settled into a tight arm-wrestle for the remainder of the first period as the rain began to heap down.
However in the second half it was Rockdale who sprung out of the blocks with only three minutes on the clock.
The soggy conditions played their part as young marksman Jaden Casella capitalised on a defensive slip-up to find himself in behind before unleashing an impressive finish into the top corner.
The contest remained finely poised on a knife’s edge as Sydney United pushed on in search of an equaliser.
Sydney United soon turned to their bench in search of salvation.
A double substitution with 15 minutes to play proved to be a masterstroke almost instantly.
A 77th minute Trifiro corner found Vlastelica unmarked at the back post and his header looped into the path of Adrian Vranic, who nodded home his first touch of the afternoon.
Three minutes later, United 58 turned the contest entirely on its head.
Jackson Khoury picked up the ball well outside the area and produced a stunning strike that sailed beyond Bradasevic to send the United faithful into raptures.
The youngster’s wonder-strike may have been worthy of winning any final, but Rockdale had other ideas.
It was the Illinden skipper Daniel Petkovski who stood up when his side needed him most in the 84th minute, driving a thunderous strike into the far corner.
Nikola Taneski scored the winning penalty for Manly United in the 2017 decider and almost proved to be the hero yet again as he poked an effort into the side netting with two minutes remaining.
Referee Adrian Arndt’s whistle soon sounded around Marconi Stadium, all but confirming the big dance would go the distance.
Both squads gave their all during a frantic thirty minutes but there would ultimately prove to be no further twists to the tale.
During a dramatic penalty shootout both Bradasevic and Nizic pulled out a save each before Jake Trajkovski blasted Rockdale’s fifth penalty over the bar, ensuring that for the first time since 2006, the NSW top flight championship would finally head back to Edensor Park.
Post-game, United 58 skipper Adrian Vlastelica was elated with the outcome.
“It was a crazy game in crazy weather after a crazy year,” he reflected.
“To come out with the win after 120 minutes and a penalty shootout is a great feeling.
“We went down early but we kept fighting and pushing.
“When we took the lead I thought ‘this could be it’, but at Sydney United we always do it the hard way.
“We won it last time here at Marconi so after a 14 year wait, to win it here again was perfect.”
In true big game fashion Trifiro was named Player of the Match in what was a sterling performance from the commanding midfield maestro.
In the 20s decider which took place at Valentine Sports Park on Saturday night, Blacktown City enjoyed a 2-1 triumph over Sydney FC to take home the title and continue their proud tradition of success at the youth level.
The Sky Blues opened the scoring inside eight minutes through Antonio Saracino but a Thomas Bienasz equaliser and Suleyman Bangura winner on the hour mark was enough to turn the tides decisively in favour of Andrew Montgomery’s side.
Rockdale Ilinden FC: 3 (Neill 10’, Casella 48’, Petkovski 84’)
Sydney United 58: 3 (Trifiro 16’ , Vranic 77’, Khoury 81’)
Sydney United 58 won 4-3 on penalties
Sunday, 25 October 2020
Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields, Emma Kocbek
Fourth official: Craig Fisher
Rockdale Ilinden FC: 1. David Bradasevic, 16. Mohamed Ahmed (11. Nikola Taneski 70’ (9. Dimi Petratos 110’), 20. Jaden Casella, 10. Marie Gauthier (18. Samuel Gulisano 68’), 6. Banri Kanaizumi, 3. Michael Neill, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 19. Patrick Savor, 14. Brayden Sorge, 4. Mitchell Stamatellis, 8. Tomoki Wada (7. Alec Urosevski 61’), (5. Jake Trajkovski)
Substitutes not used: 39. Andrew Di Blasio,
Yellow cards: Kanaizumi 7’
Red cards: Nil
Sydney United 58: 1. Danijel Nizic, 17. Matthew Bilic, 10. Devante Clut (20. Adrian Vranic 75’), 2. Cristian Gonzalez (99. Joshua Macdonald 60’), 22. Yianni Fragogiannis (15. Tariq Maia 23’), 11. Yianni Perkatis (23. Luke Vlastelica 110’), 3. Jordan Roberts, 8. Matthew Sim (14. Jackson Khoury 75’), 5. Anthony Tomelic, 18. Glen Trifiro, 4. Adrian Vlastelica
Substitutes not used: 21. Thomas Manos
Yellow cards: A. Vlastelica 57’, Clut 66’, Stamatellis 91’
Red cards: Nil
– By Football NSW reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)