Two years after arriving at Sydney FC as a back-up goalkeeper, Andrew Redmayne as the club's hero by guiding the Sky Blues to a fourth A-League championship with a brilliant performance in a penalty shoot-out win over Perth Glory.
The man who's been near unbeatable from the spot all season pulled off two stunning saves to clinch the 2018-19 A-League title, giving the Sky Blues the win they perhaps deserved to have sealed in regulation time. For the second successive year, a poor VAR decision threatened to influence the outcome of a grand final when Sydney FC had a seemingly legitimate goal incorrectly ruled out for offside.
It mattered little in terms of the end result as the Sky Blues equalled the Australian record for most successful clubs.
After coming close to clinching silverware twice already this season, debut coach Steve Corica finally got his hands on a trophy with his third attempt, clinching the one that matters most.
It was a cruel end to an otherwise dominant season for Perth Glory, who couldn't follow their A-League premiership with a championship, while their coach Tony Popovic who is still searching for his first grand final win in four attempts.
It was a grand final that pitted the two most tactically disciplined sides against one another and just as it was in their previous meetings, neither Perth or Sydney were ever going to allow many chances on their goal. That's what made Joel Chianese's early miss all the more lamentable as the former Sydney FC striker's close-range header came agonisingly close to giving the hosts the opener in the fifth minute.
However, it was Perth's structure that provided the most confidence to their boisterous home crowd. They stifled Sydney's attack with a suffocating phalanx-like defensive system that appeared watertight. Or so they thought.
Once the Sky Blues eventually found their rhythm in possession, that pried open the best opportunity of the half. A quick exchange between Michael Zullo and forward Alex Brosque put Sydney's fullback into space to deliver a pin-point cross to marksman Adam Le Fondre in front of goal. The English striker made no mistake only for his celebrations to be cut short by the linesman's flag. The VAR, Kris Griffithis-Jones, agreed that Zullo had strayed narrowly offside despite broadcast replays suggesting otherwise.
Aghast more than aggrieved, the visitors protested furiously and their normally mild-mannered coach, Steve Corica, was given a caution for his complaints from the sideline.
He had to regain his composure during the break to settle his angered side who were thanking Redmayne once more for keeping them in the contest shortly after the restart. Castro broke free of his marker inside the box to gain a free header on goal but found no way past Redmayne.
With few risks taken, it was unsurprising a result couldn't occur within 90 minutes. Sydney's hopes of getting a win in extra time were dealt an early set back when Brosque succumbed to a hamstring injury, drawing to a close his game, season and career. His replacement Reza Ghoochannejhad couldn't provide the spark the match desperately needed and after a lethargic 30 minutes produced no clear chances, the grand final went to penalties.
It was a stage set for Redmayne who had saved four of his five penalties already this season. He continued his dominance with a superb reflex save to deny Andy Keogh before out-witting Brendon Santalab to thwart his panenka attempt. With Le Fondre, Brendon O'Neill, Rhyan Grant having already converted, Ghoochannejhad had the chance to become the hero. Amid the pressure from 56,371 parochial fans, the Iran striker remained the coolest head in Optus Stadium - dutifully converting to seal Sydney FC's fourth title.
SYDNEY FC 0 drew with PERTH GLORY 0 after extra-time at Optus Stadium. (Sydney FC won 4-1 on penalties). Crowd: 56,371. Referee: Shaun Evans.
- SMH/The Age