Melbourne Victory have the first trophy of their revival under coach Tony Popovic, claiming the FFA Cup final with a 2-1 win over Central Coast.
Less than a year since he was charged with lifting Melbourne Victory out of the doldrums, Tony Popovic's revolution has delivered its first trophy in a dramatic 2-1 FFA Cup final triumph over Central Coast.
2021 FFA Cup Final
- Melbourne Victory won their second FFA Cup this Saturday, having last won it in 2015.
- They beat Central Coast Mariners 2-1 in a dramatic final.
- With this win Victory have now also secured a AFC Champions League play-off position.
More Australia Cup news can be found on FTBL.
Jason Davidson's world-class free kick handed Victory the deserved advantage in the 70th minute, with Chris Ikonomidis' 95th-minute volley proving the winner before Central Coast skipper Oliver Bozanic created a nervous finish in the 97th.
The triumph, Victory's second Cup win after 2015, came just eight months after their first wooden spoon.
Popovic was appointed in April last year and officially took charge in July, with his first task a play-off to even reach the Cup round of 32.
Victory then went on a barnstorming cup run, using 31 players in a campaign culminating in Saturday night's triumph in front of 15,343 fans at AAMI Park.
"It's a step forward, of course. This club was accustomed to winning trophies, challenging for honours constantly, regularly," Popovic said.
"Expectations have always been high and we've brought that back now.
"Today we had an opportunity to win something and we took that opportunity."
Popovic's first domestic final win also earned Victory an Asian Champions League play-off spot - a one-off away game against Vissel Kobe in March.
For the first time, the Mark Viduka Medal for player of the match was a tie, with Victory midfielder Jake Brimmer and Mariners defender Kye Rowles, who only returned from his first Socceroos call-up on Friday, sharing the honour.
"I'm very honoured and privileged to win the medal and it'd just be better if we were lifting the trophy," Rowles said.
"But going forward, it shows that we can match it with the big boys in the league."
The game cracked open when Marco Rojas' barnstorming forward run was cut short by Harrison Steele.
Davidson had acted as Brimmer's decoy on previous set pieces but stepped up and thundered a wonderful left-footed strike into the top corner.
Brimmer revealed he'd told Davidson to shoot left after seeing Mark Birighitti step to his right on his own earlier set piece.
"I said to Davo (Davidson), 'go left' and funny enough, he hit it left. (Mark) Birighitti took a step to his right and he had no chance," he said.
"So fair credit, credit where credit's due and Davo hit a wonderful free-kick."
Victory snared their second when Brillante's quick free kick ended up with Ikonomidis, who chested it then smashed a sweet left-footed volley home.
Bozanic scored a late left-footed strike but it proved only a consolation.
Mariners coach Nick Montgomery expressed his pride but played down his disappointment of being unable to register striker Jason Cummings for the final.
"I didn't think there was much in the game at all. I don't think they really tested us for the 90 minutes," he said.
"It's a learning curve. It's a sloppy little free kick at the edge of the box and they've got some quality players on dead balls if that happens.
"On the day, it's a fantastic free kick so far other than that, we frustrated them. There was nothing in the game.
"It's been a tough journey for us to get here, I'm super proud of the boys."
All FFA Cup matches can be viewed on My Football YouTube.