A tremendous strike from Mark Bridge has handed the Newcastle Jets their first Hyundai A-League Championship as they defeated the Central Coast Mariners 1-0 at Sydney Football Stadium.
The man allegedly bound for Sydney FC pounced on a slip by Tony Vidmar in the 64th minute and curled a shot past his good friend Danny Vukovic on 64 minutes.
It was enough to settle a tense final that saw plenty of commitment but not too much silky football from either side.
It ended in dramatic fashion with Vukovic dismissed in stoppage time for something he said to the referee with referee Mark Shield missing a clear handball from James Holland as the Jets defended the final corner of the game. The Mariners were screaming for a penalty but there was to be no reprieve for Lawrie McKinna's men.
Goalscorer Bridge had left the stage by that point but later described his winning goal as 'every boy's dream'.
After more than a week of 'will he or won't he be fit' speculation surrounding Mariners midfielder Tom Pondeljak the news is that he is part of the squad, albeit he has to settle for a place on the bench. Lawrie McKinna has opted for Greg Owens in the wide right role with Adam Kwasnik on the opposite flank in a 4-4-2 formation.
As for the Jets, Gary Van Egmond has handed a start to Jin Hyung Song in a midfield role.
The Prime Minister is among the spectators with kick off set for 5pm.
The teams emerge from the tunnel with Alex Wilkinson leading out the Mariners and Jade North leading out the Jets. The two sides are greeted by a huge roar as they line up for the national anthem.
Referee Mark Shield blows his whistle to get proceedings underway with Mark Bridge and Matt Thompson kicking off for the Jets. Here we go.....
20 seconds A crunching tackle from John Hutchinson which seems to annoy Adam D'Apuzzo!
45 seconds - The Jets win a corner down the left but Song's delivery is headed clear at the near post.
2 Greg Owens is clattered by Joel Griffiths. The free-kick is swung in from the right but drifts out for a goal kick.
3 Aloisi fouled by Jade North. Alvin Ceccoli throw-in from the left headed clear by Song.
5 Joel Griffiths hooks in ball from the right but Matt Thompson can't keep it in on the left touchline.
6 Joel Griffiths fouled by Tony Vidmar on the right byline. Song swings in the free-kick but it is comfortably cleared at the near post. A real wasted opportunity.
7 Thompson claims he is pulled back as he attempts to race through the Mariners defence. The referee not interested in awarding a free-kick.
9 Adam Griffiths plays the ball over the top to Bridge who races through the right channel. The striker cannot do anything with the delivery.
10 Mile Jedinak bursts forward but can't quite thread the killer pass through to Sasho Petrovski. Covic is able to gather.
11 The first yellow card of the final. Joel Griffiths is booked for a challenge on Jedinak. The Mariners players are not happy and there's some pushing and shoving between the players. Referee Shield has a word with Griffiths as he dishes out the caution.
13 Jedinak gets his revenge as he pulls down Griffiths. Referee Shield wastes no time in issuing the Mariners man with a yellow card. Consistency from the official.
14 Elrich and Joel Griffiths link up superbly and it ends with Elrich forcing Vukovic into a save down to his right. Not that it was ever likely to troubler the keeper.
16 A very late challenge on Kwasnik by Elrich. Elrich very lucky to escape a yellow card.
So a quarter of an hour gone at a noisy SFS and plenty of early spice in this F3 final with the tackles flying in.
17 So close to the opening goal. Terrific ball forward from D'Apuzzo who slips the ball through to Thompson, the Jets man firing just over the top.
19 Bridge tries his luck from the left edge of the area having been teed up by Song. Vukovic is beaten but the ball curls just wide of the right post. The Jets are certainly having the better of things at this early stage.
20 A fine tackle inside the area by Vidmar halts Joel Griffiths at the expense of a corner which comes to nothing. Song's delivery from set pieces has yet to fire on this showpiece occasion.
21 Ceccoli throw from the left is headed clear. Played out to Kwasnik but he runs the ball out of play.
23 North overhits a ball down the left and it flies out for a goalkick. Provides a breather for the under pressure Mariners. They've really yet to get going, due in a large part to the effective tactics of the Jets.
25 Free-kick for the Jets down the right. Song lifts the ball towards Adam Griffiths but it's easily gathered by Vukovic.
26 A chance for Kwasnik on the edge of the box. He pulls the trigger but a terrific block from Jets skipper North.
26 Song plays pass far too early towards Joel Griffiths and the Mariners clear.
27 Thompson wins a corner down the right for the Jets. Again, the delivery from Song is poor and Vukovic rises to grab the ball.
28 A poor effort from Greg Owens flashes well wide of the left post.
29 Adam Griffiths punt forward is headed clear by Vidmar on the edge of the area.
30 Kwasnik cuts in from the left after being played in by Ceccoli. Scuffs a poor shot wide of the left post with his strikers screaming for a cross.
31 Owens strike blocked superbly by Andrew Durante as the Mariners man lets fly from a central position just inside the box.
33 Petrovski brings down Thompson on the left edge of the centre circle. Musialik lofts ball into the area but it's comfortably headed clear.
34 Joel Griffiths cross from the right byline is headed out for yet another Jets corner at the back post by Nigel Boogaard. Vukovic gets a fist to the delivery from the left and the Mariners clear the danger.
36 Kwasnik's cross from the left is far too deep and drifts out for a goal kick.
37 Poor ball from Kwasnik to Ceccoli who can't get the required delivery into the area from the left byline.
38 Adam Griffiths joins brother Joel in the book for a foul on Hutchinson some 25 metres from goal.
39 Aloisi's free kick thunders into the wall. The Jets break quickly but cannot capitalise.
40 Kwasnik's deep cross from the left has just a little too much height on it as it sails past the lurking Aloisi.
41 Petrovski thwarted on the edge of the area by a timely intervention from Durante.
43 Thompson caught offside as he bids to chase a through ball.
44 Joel Griffiths' cross from the rights loops off Vidmar and into the arms of Vukovic. The Jets look quick and dangerous on the break.
45 Mariners free-kick but it's a poor delivery from Kwasnik which is easy for Covic under no pressure.
45 There will be two minutes of added time as we approach the interval.
45+2 Song's through ball almost catches out the Mariners but they are able to clear.
The referee blows for half-time.
It's goalless at the interval but you suspect that Lawrie McKinna will be the coach with more talking to do in the dressing rooms. The Jets dominated the opening half an hour with the Mariners struggling to gain control in the centre of the park. Kwasnik and Owens have not been involved enough and the delivery from wide areas has been poor.
The Jets have had a couple of decent opportunities through Thompson and Bridge but failed to make the most of set piece opportunities. Song has looked lively but needs to work on his delivery from those corners.
The Hunter boys have had more possession but they cannot allow frustration to get the better of them. The Griffiths brothers will need to be particularly careful after the break with both on yellow cards.
Lively, totally committed stuff but it remains to be seen which side will be enjoying a very happy journey home this evening.
The teams are out for the second period. No changes by either side as the Mariners kick off.
47 Persistence from Song puts Ceccoli under pressure but he is able to get out of trouble on the left flank.
47 Kwasnik blazes over from 20 metres as the Jets half clear a cross from the right.
49 Elrich gets the better of Kwasnik and whips the ball off the Mariners' man's toes by the left corner flag.
49 Aloisi flashes a header wide of the right post from Kwasnik's left wing cross. A great chance spurned. Much brighter from the Mariners.
51 The official attendance at the SFS is 36,354.
52 Important toe in by Vidmar to thwart Elrich as he attempts to get on the end of an intelligent ball from Joel Griffiths. Again, Song's corner is not good enough and floats out at the far post.
54 Poor delivery from the left sees the ball whistle past Aloisi at the far post and straight out for a goal-kick.
55 An audacious chip from Petrovski drops over Covic but also well over the crossbar.
57 D'Apuzzo's lunge catches Boogaard on the edge of the Mariners area. Free-kick.
59 D'Apuzzo in a great position on the left edge of the area. His shot clips Mariners skipper Wilkinson and past the right post for a corner. Again, Song's delivery fails to clear the man at the near post.
62 Ceccoli heads clear just ahead of Vukovic as ball whipped in from the right.
64 GOAL Awful slip by Vidmar. Bridge bursts clear and thumps a tremendous swerving shot past his good mate Vukovic into the right hand corner of the net. 1-0 to the Newcastle Jets. At last the deadlock is broken.
66 Bridge warned by the referee for a foul on Vidmar on the right edge of the box.
68 Awful effort from Owens as his long distance strike flies well wide of the right post.
69 A double change by the Mariners. Owens makes way for Andre Gumphrect while Tom Pondeljak comes on for Kwasnik.
70 Hutchinson thwarted on the edge of the box by a superb tackle from North.
71 Covic clears as the Mariners press forward. Joel Griffiths surges clear on the break but cannot get past the challenge of Wilkinson.
73 Goalscorer Bridge goes off to be replaced by James Holland.
75 A poor cross from Ceccoli down the left and he then fouls Elrich in trying to make up for his poor initial delivery.
75 Matt Simon comes on for the retiring Tony Vidmar.
76 Matt Thompson trots off to be replaced by Jason Hoffman.
79 Simon swivels, goes low across the keeper but drags his shot wide of the left post. Unlucky.
80 Ten minutes to go at the SFS. Is there a way back into this contest for the Mariners?
81 Boogaard clatters into Hoffman. Free-kick but it comes to nothing.
82 Great chance for Jedinak. Hasn't the power to beat Covic from a central position. A bit of pushing and shoving between Simon and Durante.
84 Gumprecht slashes a volley high and wide of the right post.
86 Aloisi screams for a penalty, claiming he is pulled back by D'Apuzzo as he reaches to meet a cross from the left. The referee is not interested.
88 Holland's strike from the edge of the box is comfortably held by Vukovic.
89 Covic grasps the ball under pressure from a frustrated Aloisi as the Mariners desperately look for a last-gasp leveller.
90 Boogaard booked for a foul on Song.
90 There will be three additional minutes. The Jets are almost there.
92 A free-kick for the Mariners. Up comes Vukovic for it.
93 Petrovski shot goes out for a goal kick. Denni on for Song. Just seconds to go.
94 A corner for the Mariners. One final chance. Aloisi heads over.
94 Out comes the red card and Danny Vukovic is sent off in the opposition penalty area! Aloisi booked. The Mariners claim a handball from Holland as the ball is whipped in. A clear penalty but not given!
THE FINAL WHISTLE! THE NEWCASTLE JETS ARE THE HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE CHAMPIONS HAVING BEATEN THE CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 1-0.
Well, what an end to the match. The Central Coast will long argue they should have had a penalty but it was Mark Bridge's goal that settled matters. Poor Tony Vidmar did not have the farewell he wanted as the premiers fell just short of doing the double.
It certainly wasn't a classic and there have been numerous games more entertaining than this during the regular season. Not that the Jets fans will care about that tonight as they drink Newcastle (and possibly Sydney) dry! As for the Mariners at leas they have the consolation of having been the best team over the marathon of a regular campaign.
The Joe Marston Medal for the grand final player of the match is Jets defender Andrew Durante.
Mariners skipper Alex Wilkinson is gracious in defeat as the losing finalists collect their medals.
Then it's the Jets turn as the players come up to the podium. Joel Griffiths gets an extra loud cheer as does Mark Bridge.
Victorious skipper Jade North said: "The boys have been fantastic all season. An unbelievable experience."
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