Kosta Barbarouses opened the scoring for the Sky Blues. But the unlikely goal scorers of Nathaniel Atkinson, Scott Jamieson and Scott Galloway ultimately turned things around for Patrick Kisnorbo's side.

So what did we learn? 

Function with fashion

Melbourne City might have now joined the list of clubs to have won the A-League, but this particularly City side is right up there with some of the best teams this league has ever seen.

Having two or three elite-level players - foreigners or otherwise - can make all the difference. Still, if you can complement that with an entertaining style of football that everyone wants to watch, you are guaranteed success.

Think of Ange Postecoglou's Brisbane Roar and Guillermo Amor's Adelaide United, for example.

These were teams who were successful but did it playing the so-called 'right way'.

Technically there is no 'right way' of playing the beautiful game. Still, every A-League team should try and excite fans, take the game to their opponents and blood youngsters as much as possible.

Our game needs more eyeballs watching it. Melbourne City alone would have generated some extra interest in the A-League due to their fluid and easy on the eye style.

Yes, they are owned by a much-maligned entity in the City Football Group. However, you can't deny they've still been able to find a balance with quality imports and exciting young Australians.

Florin Berenguer and Nuno Reis have been superb pickups. But they've been supported by the emergence of sensational youngsters like Marco Tilio and Stefan Colakovski.

Teams such as Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have been very successful throughout the A-League era.

However, one wonders whether that was more due to purely attracting elite foreigners or finding the right balance by giving the youth a chance.

In terms of style, Sydney FC, in particular, are a great side that has won countless trophies. Still, I don't think anyone can say they were as entertaining as City have been under Kisnorbo.

Under Graham Arnold and Steve Corica, they often rely on their experience in big games. They wait to strike, as opposed to striking as soon as possible.

It is refreshing to see a team in Australia being rewarded for playing the 'right way'. This City side - provided they can hold on to their prized assets - are primed for more success in years to come.

Sydney finally lose their cool

As mentioned above, Sydney FC is still a great side that has been the benchmark in the past five seasons.

However, Sunday's decider was an uncharacteristically immature performance by Corica's side.

They were missing critical experienced heads such as Andrew Redmayne, Rhyan Grant and Ryan McGowan. Still, Sydney prides itself on being a core unit that can navigate any crunch games that come their way.

When Barbarouses opened the scoring, it looked like they would pick up where they left off from 2020's decider.

However, once Atkinson equalised, the game slowly got away from Sydney, and it was effectively over in the 35th minute with Luke Brattan's red card.

That seems a bizarre statement to make as it was still 1-1 at the time, but City is a nightmare to defend against even with eleven men.

They are so good at finding spaces all over the pitch that if one key cog is taken out defensively, they will consistently create overloads in attacking areas.

From then on, chances came to them with ease.

Maybe Brattan was so distraught with his dismissal because he knew the ramifications, but he can have no complaints whatsoever.

He was right in the thick of the midfield battle early on, snapping into City’s players, most notably Aiden O’Neill, and seemingly in constant disagreement with referee Chris Beath.

Brattan is also good mates with his ex-teammate Scott Jamieson and seemed to be trying to goad him or have friendly banter during the game, but the left-back was having none of it.

His first challenge on O’Neill was arguably a straight red as he lunged with a high boot and studs showing.

He didn’t heed the warning just ten minutes later when he lunged in late on Marco Tilio, and he can have no complaints about his dismissal.

There was an arrogance there, symbolised by Brattan, that Sydney thought they could win the game because of the psychological edge of beating City in last year's final.

But it backfired, and Brattan's egotistical mentality – and Sydney’s mentality as a whole – was nowhere near where it has been in recent years. A superior City side rattled them right from the start.

From then on, Sydney was far from gracious in defeat, complaining about every tackle made by one of City’s players and conceding that they could get back into the game tactically.

They did have a disrupted preparation in the lead up to the game, missed vital players, and were away from home.

However, other sides in the league have faced those challenges in Grand Finals before, including Sydney themselves, meaning you have to rise above it and accept the circumstances.

It was City's year ultimately, but the Sky Blues didn't help themselves with their actions on Sunday.

This rivalry has only just begun

If Sunday signalled the end of an era of Sydney's dominance, will City be the ones to take over?

We've seen them play each other in back-to-back Grand Finals, and City and Sydney might continue to fight each other right at the top for years to come.

Big clubs such as Melbourne Victory and the Western Sydney Wanderers are in disarray.

Meanwhile, the Mariners' huge off-season losses thus far will hinder them from making the top six again next season.

The Victory looks to be turning things around with Tony Popovic at the helm and John Didulica recently appointed as their Director of Football.

However, they've been so poor the past two seasons that it's hard to see them closing the gap straight away.

Adelaide and Brisbane both play attractive football, but can they keep their best players or add to it with the same star quality of City and Sydney? Probably not.

That leaves maybe Macarthur as the only one who could break into that top two, particularly with the post-season recruitment they have already made.

But City has shown that it isn't easy for an expansion side to win a championship straight away. Ante Milicic's side might have to wait for their maiden success.

City and Sydney have three fundamental things that mean they will most likely continue next season as the frontrunners.

Minimal squad turnover, bringing in experienced and elite foreigners, and having a club run smoothly off the pitch is the key to any success you can have in the A-League.

Unless the salary cap is changed, or clubs such as the Victory and Wanderers get their houses in order, you can't see anyone else breaking into the top two.

The rivalry has only just begun between City and Sydney. Expect more exciting games and big moments as both continue to go head-to-head for the ultimate prize in Australia.


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