VAR controversy as Victory claim A-League title

Vince Rugari
Another premiership for Melbourne. Pic: Getty

Melbourne Victory have snuffed out Newcastle's A-League fairytale at the final hurdle, defeating the Jets 1-0 to win a record fourth A-League title.

Kosta Barbarouses scored the quickest-ever grand-final goal in the ninth minute to seal a controversial season finale underscored by the video assistant referee's failure to pick up offside Victory players in the process.

And Saturday night's match at McDonald Jones Stadium ended with a sickening injury-time incident, when Roy O'Donovan was dismissed for ramming his studs into the face of Joe Marston Medallist Lawrence Thomas, who finished the match with his face covered in bandages.

The Jets striker's high kick collected the Victory goalkeeper flush in the jaw as he came out to collect the ball two minutes from fulltime, and referee Jarred Gillett issued a straight red card with a lengthy ban sure to follow.

It was a horrible end to the first grand final of any major code to be played in a regional town.

The Jets rode the wave of support from the 29,410 crammed into McDonald Jones Stadium in their bid to become the first Australian side in any sporting code to go from wooden spooners to champions in one season.



In the end, it was Ernie Merrick's one-time protege turned combatant Kevin Muscat who got the last laugh in a contest that started breathlessly but was shut down by Victory's experienced campaigners.

While the Jets dominated all the first-half statistics they couldn't overcome the all-powerful Thomas, whose gargantuan saves inspired his side to exorcise the ghosts of last season's grand-final penalty-shootout loss to Sydney FC.

They went behind early when Leroy George's swooping free kick found the head of James Donachie, who knocked it down for Barbarouses to fire past Glen Moss via a deflection off Johnny Koutroumbis.

Replays showed Donachie - and two teammates - had been offside, yet the VAR remained silent.

The Jets responded swiftly, raining down on Victory's goal and navigating a way past every opponent bar the brick wall of Thomas.

The visiting custodian took a reflex dive to deny Roy O'Donovan's instinctive flick off a Koutroumbis cross.


Minutes later Thomas topped it, parrying away Riley McGree's would-be equaliser before recovering in time to divert Jason Hoffman's point-blank follow-up shot away to safety.

If not for those world-class efforts the Jets would at least have levelled the ledger, finishing a one-sided first half with 11 shots to three.

McGree ran the midfield while Socceroo Dimi Petratos and Venezuelan trickster Ronny Vargas exposed Stefan Nigro on the left flank.

But they faded after the break as the Jets' early momentum fell victim to a staunch Victory defence run by Thomas Deng and James Donachie.

The visitors utilised their big-stage experience to close down the game as James Troisi and Terry Antonis began to properly assert themselves.

The latter was momentarily felled during an aerial clash with ex-Victory man Daniel Georgievski.

But it was O'Donovan who really came off worse for wear when he threw himself in the path of Besart Berisha to stop the ball rolling over the goal line and copped a stray elbow the face.

The Irish marksman soon had a swollen lump under his eye but clashed with Thomas soon after, trying to get direction on a header before delivering his horrible kick.