Sydney FC stand a single game away from completing the greatest individual season in the history of the A-League. The A-League Grand Final will see the Sky Blues take on Melbourne Victory to be crowned Champions of Australia. Having single mindedly overcome every obstacle in their path all year, suffering only one defeat, it is hard to see them falling at the final hurdle.
If Melbourne Victory fans were looking for hope, then they have come to the right place. As unlikely as a Sydney FC defeat may be, improbable results do happen. With that in mind, we present to Melbourne Victory and sports fans alike this century’s Top 5 Championship Deciding Boilovers.
- Chelsea Crowned Kings of Europe – 2012 Champions League Final
Chelsea entered the UEFA Champions League Final of 2012 an unlikely winner. Not only had they experienced a poor EPL Season, having finished 6th, but they also faced the unusual situation of playing the decider on their opponent’s home ground.
When Bayern took the lead in the 83rd minute, what had appeared unlikely now seemed impossible. Yet, to the dismay of the home team fans, Didier Drogba scored an 88th minute equalizer to send the game into extra time. The improbable story continued, with Chelsea only staying alive for spot kicks, when Thomas Mueller missed a penalty during added time.
In his last game for the club, Drogba proved Chelsea’s hero. With the shootout locked at 3-3, the Ivorian buried his penalty and Chelsea were Champions of Europe. Bayern Munich weren’t the only losers as a result of Chelsea’s triumph. Tottenham, who had finished 4th in the EPL, surrendered their spot in the following season’s Champions League to allow Chelsea, as defending champions, to compete. Having produced a range of memorabilia to commemorate their qualification, this result saw the Spurs club shop selling it all at discount prices for some time.
- Newcastle overcome ‘unbeatable’ Eels – 2001 NRL Grand Final
Parramatta ran roughshod over the 2001 NRL Season. Runaway Minor Premiers, the Eels boasted the best attack and defence in the NRL by a considerable margin. Their dominance acknowledged by the Grand Final week cover of Rugby League Week which read ‘Unbeatable! Why the Eels are specials.’
Nobody told Andrew Johns and the Knights this though. In the NRL’s first night Grand Final, the future immortal was instrumental in the first half ambush of Parramatta, which saw Newcastle take a 24-0 half time lead.
The Eels mounted a gallant second half comeback but the damage had already been done. Newcastle completing one of Rugby League’s greatest upsets, hanging on to claim their second premiership 30-24.
- Wigan stun Manchester City – 2013 FA Cup Final
The ‘Magic of the FA Cup’ is the opportunity for clubs of all shapes and sizes to compete on the same stage. While FA Cup history was already full of giant killing results, there weren’t many people game enough to suggest struggling Wigan had a chance against the might of Manchester City in the 2013 Final.
City had been locked in battle with cross town rivals United for the Premier League title, while Wigan spent the season in a dog-fight to avoid relegation. On paper the contest looked a foregone conclusion, but as the saying goes football isn’t played on paper.
A crowd of 86,254 at Wembley sat enthralled as the two teams from different ends of the Premier League spectrum played out a gripping contest. In the shadow of extra time substitute Ben Watson wrote his name in history as his injury time goal was enough for Wigan to claim the famous old trophy.
The euphoria of FA Cup glory was not enough to help Wigan in their efforts to remain in the Premier League for the following season. Relegated to the Championship, they became the first team in history to suffer this ignominy. Athletic have struggled in recent times, the 2016/17 season saw the team relegated from the Championship for the second time since their meeting with Man City. Whatever the struggles they’ve endured since, nothing can take away the day they slayed the Giant to claim one of world sports most famous trophies.
- The Hawks ‘stop the shark’ – 2008 AFL Grand Final
Geelong entered the 2008 AFL Grand Final as close to an unbackable favourite as is possible in a two-horse race. Defending champs, they had lost only one game en route the decider against the upstart Hawks.
In his pre-game address, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson likened the Geelong team to a great white shark. “As soon as sharks stop, they die” Clarkson told his players, imploring his charges to restrict the space in which their hard-running opponents had to move.
The young Hawks followed their coach’s directions to the letter and, perhaps aided a little by the wayward kicking of the Cats, put themselves in the position to claim a famous win. Within touching distance of the Premiership Cup, Stuart Dew wrote his name into Grand Final folklore with 10-minutes of unforgettable football that vindicated Clarkson’s decision to recruit the less than svelte forward from Port Adelaide.
- Patriots fall one game short of perfection – 2008 Super Bowl
Tom Brady and Bill Bilichick of the New England Patriots are certain additions to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the curtain is drawn on their time on the Gridiron. In storied careers, they have achieved almost all that there is to achieve in the NFL. In 2008 however, they fell a hand and a helmet away from adding a ‘perfect season’ to their list of achievements.
Having arrived in Arizona for the Super Bowl without having tasted defeat that season, the Patriots were one of the shortest priced favourite’s in NFL history. The New York Giants had given New England an almighty scare in the last regular season game, but having finished the year with a 10-6 record, nobody outside of New York gave them much chance.
The match was a defensive arm wrestle for much of its duration, with neither offense able to gain a strong foothold. When the Patriots reclaimed the lead with less than 3 minutes to play, it seemed that despite the Giants best efforts, New England had done enough. An unbelievable 83 yard drive, highlighted and saved by David Tyree’s leaping one handed ‘helmet catch’, ended with a Plaxico Burress winner with only 35-secs to play.
As a result, the Giants had claimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the Greatest Championship Boil over of the 21st Century.
What will happen in this Championship Decider? Will Melbourne Victory add their story to the underdog tales of Chelsea, Newcastle, Wigan, Hawthorn and New York or will Sydney FC write their name into history? If we have learnt anything from history, it is an answer we won’t know until Jarred Gillett blows his whistle to signal full-time.