Sport Last-gasp winner helps Melbourne Victory end W-League title drought

Last-gasp winner helps Melbourne Victory end W-League title drought

Victory teammates mob Kyra Cooney-Cross after sealing victory in the W-League grand final on Sunday. Photo: AAP
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Kyra Cooney-Cross has scored the winner in the final seconds of extra time as Melbourne Victory ended its seven-year W-League title drought with a deserved 1-0 grand final win over Sydney FC.

Victory completely dominated the premiers on Sunday afternoon but it wasn’t until two seconds from the end of extra time that it broke through when Cooney-Cross’s inswinging corner eluded goalkeeper Jada Whyman and crossed the line in a congested penalty area.

The pair were the game’s key protagonists with teenage midfield prodigy Cooney-Cross behind all of Victory’s best attacking moments, while Whyman almost single-handedly kept her side in the contest with a string of saves.

Sydney FC survived an onslaught at times in awkward blustery and cold conditions in front of 4619 spectators, but managed to force the game into an additional 30 minutes.

Player of the match Whyman made an incredible double-block on the goal-line from Cooney-Cross in the second half, and twice athletically pawed away long-range efforts from Annalie Longo.

Matildas’ prospect Cooney-Cross and the age-defying 36-year-old Lisa De Vanna both struck the crossbar in the first half and the match seemed set to be the first W-League title decided by penalties before Victory received overdue reward.

“I was just thinking that I didn’t want it to go to penalties,” 19-year-old Cooney-Cross said.

“We had so many chances, hit the crossbar… kudos to Jada, she made a lot of saves but we deserved to win.”

Sydney FC started as mild favourites after seeing off Victory a fortnight ago with a 2-1 win to claim the premiership on the final day of the regular season.

It is a second title win for Victory following its 2014 success, while Sydney FC missed the opportunity to sit alongside Melbourne City with a record-equalling fourth championship.

The evergreen De Vanna claimed a record-equalling fifth grand final win as she became the oldest player to feature in a championship decider at 36.

Victory boss Jeff Hopkins, who became the first coach to claim three W-Leagues titles, said he always felt his team would be victorious.

“Although we were quite confident through the latter half of the game, things were still really tight, they defended really well and were very well organised, so we were living on our nerves a little bit towards the end,” Hopkins said.

“I always felt like we were going to get something, even as it came towards the end and had gone to penalties, I felt we would go on and win.”

Despite Sydney FC’s youthful side, the Sky Blues boasted more grand final experience than their opponents with a cumulative 18 appearances across seven players in the starting side, against 11 appearances from four players for Victory.

Sydney FC coach Ante Juric, who had led the Sky Blues to a fourth-consecutive grand final, said his side missed the pace of the injured Cortnee Vine, and also Princess Ibini in the latter stages after the winger went off injured.

“To concede a goal like that from a corner which wasn’t a corner is very disappointing because they (our players) didn’t deserve that,” Juric said.

“In saying that, Victory were the better team and hats off to them.”