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Patrick Kisnorbo has hailed Melbourne City's resilience through a difficult season after the reigning champions clinched a second consecutive A-League premiership with a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix.
City became the second ALM team after Sydney FC (2016-17 and 2017-18) to win consecutive premierships and will now attempt to become the first to complete back-to-back doubles with another grand final triumph.
City entered Monday night's game on 46 points, two behind fierce rivals Melbourne Victory, knowing only a win would seal silverware.
Kisnorbo said the premiership was the culmination of a difficult and emotional nine months, especially after a disappointing Asian Champions League group stage exit, while the achievement of going back to back was particularly rewarding.
"It's been a big year excluding the finals series," Kisnorbo said.
"Obviously what we've had to deal with and I'm not just saying us but a lot of clubs: back-to-back games and you get put in situations that we've never been put in before because of the COVID situation.
"It's all credit to the players, we've had to overcome adversity and to overcome maybe some public criticism, overcome COVID, injuries, we've had to overcome a lot.
"We've had to play with nine players out, we've had internationals, we've had people with injuries, three games a week.
"To get the rewards that they've got tonight ... it's a build-up of emotion just to say that we did something that we set out to do and now we need to get clear and go again."
A couple of hundred Victory fans packed the north end of AAMI Park to support Wellington and boo City.
But they were silenced after just three minutes when Sam Sutton scored an own goal, with Jamie Maclaren adding City's second in the 10th minute.
With his 15th goal of the season, Maclaren wrapped up a third straight golden boot, and the fourth of his career.
Ben Waine sparked the game to life by scoring in the 54th minute but City hung on to finish top by a point.
Wellington, who couldn't finish above sixth, were understrength, clearly with an eye to Saturday's away elimination final against Western United at AAMI Park.
Gael Sandoval and David Ball were rested while Reno Piscopo started on the bench.
"Off the back of the second-half performance I feel positive, not so much the first half," coach Ufuk Talay said.
"It was good to have a second half against Melbourne City the way that we did. It was pretty close to finals football."
City and Victory both progress directly to the two-legged semi-finals.
A-LEAGUE MEN FINALS
* Match A: Western United (third) v Wellington Phoenix (sixth), Saturday 14 May, AAMI Park, 7.45pm
* Match B: Adelaide United (fourth) v Central Coast Mariners (fifth), Sunday 15 May, Coopers Stadium, 4.05pm
* Winner match A v City or Victory, May 17/18
* City or Victory v Winner Match A, May 21
* Winner match B v City or Victory, May 18
* City or Victory v winner match B, May 22
Saturday 28 May, 7.45pm