In its 15 completed campaigns, some of the A-League’s finest moments have come in the finals.
Since Central Coast’s Matthew Osman scored the first finals goal on the evening of 10 February 2006, we’ve seen nets bulge a further 205 times over the seasons’ last three weeks.
From free-flowing thrillers to tense and tight tussles, if previous seasons are any guide, we’re going to be glued to the A-League for this season’s final five matches.
5. 2015/16 Elimination Final – Brisbane Roar vs Melbourne Victory
Despite finishing just one point off top spot, Brisbane’s season was hanging by a thread with mere minutes left in their first final.
The Roar had handed their opponents a 5-0 walloping just a month prior, but an 86th-minute goal from former fan favourite Besart Berisha saw the ten-man Melburnians edging towards an upset victory.
After wild celebrations, however, Victory were taken straight back down to earth.
A tumbling Dimi Petratos cross found Matt McKay, who wriggled himself loose and glanced a shot past Lawrence Thomas.
As the clock ticked on, it looked like the sun was setting on a normal-time result in Brisbane.
Two of Brisbane’s stars had other plans.
In the 93rd minute, Roar’s player of the season, Corona, sent in a looping corner.
Roar legend Thomas Broich rose above all others to barrel in a header for his first goal of the season, sealing a monumental Brisbane triumph.
Brisbane went on to face Western Sydney the following week.
4. 2007/08 Preliminary Final – Newcastle Jets vs Queensland Roar
Season three of the A-League truly was a different era; Newcastle played in gold, Brisbane were called Queensland, and Preliminary Finals were the norm.
Chances were aplenty all game, but a follow-up finish from Matt Thompson was seemingly sending the Jets to a maiden Grand Final.
If it weren’t for a dubious offside decision in the 80th minute, Newcastle could’ve had it won.
As injury time began though, Simon Lynch earned Queensland a controversial penalty; Reinaldo duly dispatched.
Nearing extra-time’s break, a Joel Griffiths spot-kick put Newcastle back in front and the lead was soon to be extended.
Combined with Craig Moore’s sending off for a high elbow on Mark Bridge, Tarek Elrich’s venomous 110th-minute shot looked to have finally killed the Roar’s Grand Final dreams, but there was one final twist left.
Elrich’s clash with Michael Zullo gave Queensland a lifeline, yet Reinaldo’s coolly-taken penalty wasn’t enough.
Queensland were valiant in the Hunter, but Newcastle ultimately progressed to an F3 Derby Grand Final.
3. 2017/18 Semi Final – Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory
Pre-game, Sydney fans could have been forgiven for sorting out their mode of transport for a trip to Newcastle the next week.
The Sky Blues were fresh off a week’s break and looking to beat a Victory team – without defensive rock Rhys Williams – who they’d toppled just a fortnight ago. .
Harbourside confidence in a Big Blue clean-sweep for the season only grew after Stefan Nigro – Williams’ late replacement – sent a not-so-perfectly-placed header past his own goalkeeper in the 24th minute.
Two Melbourne Victory goals either side of half-time flipped the script though and, as the rain poured down, the away end’s soggy supporters were sparked to life.
Victory looked as if they’d successfully soaked up the pressure, but disaster struck when ex-Sydney midfielder Terry Antonis turned the ball into his own net with the last kick of normal time.
With penalties looming in the 117th minute, Simon Hill gave us one of his most memorable calls.
“Antonis had no right to get through there really, but still he goes on. O’Neill giving chase forlornly. Still Terry Antonis! Has he won it for Melbourne Victory?”
2. 2018/19 Semi Final – Perth Glory vs Adelaide United
With 10 minutes left in this game, Perth fans were rejoicing in their seemingly soon-to-be confirmed spot in a home Grand Final.
Thanks to a Diego Castro brace, they were leading Adelaide 2-0 for a third time that season.
Hope was breathed into travelling United fans in the 81st minute though, when a game of in-the-box pinball was finished by a Baba Diawara prodding one home.
Extra time was forced when Ryan Kitto leathered a shot into the bottom-left corner seconds before the final whistle, but there was more drama to come.
Headers from Perth’s Scott Neville and Reds defender Michael Marrone cancelled each other out, sending the contest to penalties.
Paul Izzo stopped three Perth spot-kicks, but Glory keeper Liam Reddy scored one of his own before saving three consecutively.
It was up to substitute Joel Chianese to seal the deal for Perth and, with the 16th penalty of the shootout, he sent Adelaide back across the Nullarbor wondering what could’ve been.
1. 2015/16 Semi Final – Western Sydney Wanderers vs Brisbane Roar
Split by only goal difference in the end-of-season standings, both sides went into this one feeling they had every chance of advancing to the A-League’s showpiece event.
Hordes converged on Pirtek Stadium for its final A-League game, but the Roar quickly silenced most of the 20,000 in attendance.
Choosing the wrong time for a Superman impersonation, Andreu’s handball led to a Dimi Pretatos penalty conversion and just four minutes later, the Spaniard turned villain again when his own goal sent the Wanderers 2-0 down.
Despite Jamie Maclaren making it three in just the 23rd minute, a thunderous Romeo Castelen free-kick and near post Brendon Santalab finish saw the half-time margin whittled down.
A quick-fire Castelen double completed his hat-trick and the Wanderers 4-3 up early in the second half.
However, Jamie Maclaren’s 81st-minute equaliser forced the thriller into extra time and a mass shortage of fingernails in Parramatta.
The ever-increasing tension only mounted but, nearing the extra time break, the deadlock was broken.
Capitalising on a parried Jamie Young save, Mark Bridge bobbled in a cross to an open Dario Vidosic.
The ex-Socceroo promptly poked home the winner, sending the RBB into raptures and Western Sydney into their third Grand Final.
Image Supplied – APL