Sydney FC have been crowned princes of Australian junior football after the Harboursiders downed Melbourne Victory 5-1 in the 2019/20 Y-League Grand Final at Jubilee Stadium.
Undefeated across the Y-League’s eight-game regular season, the Sky Blues used a strong
start to seize the initiative through an early Jordi Swibel goal on Friday evening and never looked back.
For while Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio did restore a plucky Victory to parity for a brief period, a late first-half penalty converted by Marco Tilio dealt a sucker punch for their chances - one that was hammered home early through second-half goals to Jake Hollman, Ben Koop and Tilio.
Clearly the superior side on the day, it’s Sydney FC’s fourth youth crown, with Head Coach Jimmy Van Weeren’s side joining the club’s 2008/09 and 2015/16 championships and 2013/14 premierships at the top of Australian youth football.
In a feather in their Sky Blue caps, Sydney are now the first side to be reigning A-League, W-League and Y-League champions.
Victory’s season, however, ends on a sour note.
Coming into 2019/20 after finishing bottom of Conference A the year prior, Head Coach Gareth Naven’s side had been handed a 7-0 drubbing by Brisbane Roar in the opening round of the campaign but rallied to secure progression to the Grand Final on the final day of the season.
Both sides thoughts will now turn to their respective NPL seasons, with Sydney FC due to being their NPL NSW season away to Mt Druitt Town Rangers on March 1 and Victory set to being their NPL VIC NPL3 campaign against Springvale White Eagles at the Serbian Sports Centre on March 21
Sydney raced out of the blocks and took the lead in just the fifth minute of play when Hollman scanned his surroundings and picked out the run of overlapping fullback Tom Fay down the left. The 18-year-old, in turn, picked out Swibel in enough space inside the area to allow the forward to secure control of the ball and fire home.
With the game played in oppressive heat, things went from bad to worse for Victory in the 11th minute when So Nishikawa was forced from the field with illness and replaced by Matthew Bozinovski - the move forcing a reshuffle in Naven's back four.
A drinks break on the 15th minute provided the visitors with some needed respite and, briefly, allowed them to settle into the contest.
Lawrie-Lattanzio broke through behind the Sydney lines and forced a strong save from Levi Kaye for Victory’s first proper chance in the 25th minute, before Josh Varga setup Birkan Kirdar to test the Sky Blue keeper with a stinging long-range shot a minute later.
Creating further chances as the first half wore on, the boys in navy blue eventually secured their breakthrough in the 37th minute when a long ball out from the back was flicked on by Varga and into the path of Lawrie-Lattanzio, who sprinted into the area and directed a low shot into the back of the net.
Swibel attempted to answer back with a free-kick that he won a minute later, only to be denied by a strong save from Sutton.
Aaron Anderson had a long-range effort turned away for a corner by Kaye in the 45th minute, before Lawrie-Lattanzio had a chance from the subsequent set-piece cleared off the line.
The final word on the half, though, went to the hosts after they won a penalty in the third minutes of extras after Victory left-back Dalibor Markovic swung a carless challenge into the legs Thomas Main on the edge of the area.
Stepping up to take it, Tilio made no mistake as he fired home his tenth goal of the season.
An early chance to Sydney whenSwibel, running onto a ball from Calem Nieuwenhof, forced a strong save from Sutton in the 54th minute kept the pressure up, before the hosts made it 3-1 in the 56th minute when Hollman reacted first to a free-kick from Talbot that rattled off the post and fired home.
Down two goals, Victory began to throw men forward in search of an avenue back into their contest but their inability to get anything going outside of moments in transition began to weigh heavily on those efforts as time ticked away.
Lawrie-Lattanzio repeatedly tried to use his speed to blast past his markers but, unfortunately for the U17 World Cup representative, his still-developing skills left him without a reliable backup plan as his efforts were frustrated.
An almost carbon copy of the third goal, with substitute Koop this time following up a powerful free-kick from Tilio, made it 4-1 in the 71st minute, before insult was added to injury in the 73rd minute when Fay picked out Tilio – who had ghosted behind Markovic – to head home two minutes later.