Newcastle Jets 0 Melbourne Victory 1: Barbarouses secures record-breaking Grand Final triumph
Melbourne Victory became the first team to be crowned A-League Champions for the fourth time with a 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets in Saturday's Grand Final.
A controversial strike from Kosta Barbarouses in the first half broke the hearts of the home fans at McDonald Jones Stadium and secured the title for Kevin Muscat's side.
The result brings redemption for Victory, who were beaten by Sydney FC in last season's final and finished 23 points off top spot in the regular season.
To sum up the Jets' miserable day, striker Ray O'Donovan was shown a straight red card in second-half stoppage time for a high boot to the face of goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas as he sought to connect with a free-kick into the box.
The visitors were arguably the favourites heading into the match, having edged out Premiers' Plate-winners Sydney in extra-time in the semi-final, and they struck the decisive blow just nine minutes in when Barbarouses' finish was allowed to stand despite an apparent offside infringement.
The Jets responded well and forced Thomas into some fine saves, but they found it hard to fashion many clear-cut openings against a team they beat 4-1 and 2-0 in their earlier meetings at this ground this season, meaning they end the season empty-handed.
Barbarouses' ninth-minute opener was the fastest goal in Grand Final history, although it should have been disallowed.
James Donachie headed Leroy George's deep free-kick back across goal from an offside position, and Barbarouses drilled the loose ball into the net via a deflection, with the goal allowed to stand despite a VAR check.
The Jets responded by taking control of possession and putting Victory firmly on the back foot, but they met stubborn resistance in the form of Thomas, who made a stunning double save to deny Riley McGree and Jason Hoffman before the break.
Victory seemed to regain composure early in the second half and almost snatched a second goal 68 minutes in, with O'Donovan earning a painful-looking blow to the face after doing enough to stop Besart Berisha heading home in a goalmouth scramble.
The home fans did their utmost to inspire a late challenge for an equaliser, but hopes were effectively extinguished when O'Donovan was sent off for catching Thomas in the head with a raised boot in a sickening impact in the Victory area, as he stretched to reach Dimitri Petratos' delivery.
Thomas' face needed plenty of strapping but he was fit to continue for the final moments and celebrate Victory's memorable triumph.