IN news that will shock absolutely no one, A-League premier Sydney FC is favourite to win back to back titles in 2018.
The Sky Blues are $3.75 in early CrownBet.com.au markets to go again in 2018 after capping off their remarkable season by beating Melbourne Victory in the weekend’s grand final.
The Victory is the second favourite at $5, with their bitter cross town rivals Melbourne City only half a point further out at $5.50.
Sydney FC and the Victory played out one of the great A-League grand finals at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night and it makes sense that those two teams would be at the top of the betting.
In stunning scenes, the top two sides on the 2017 ladder fought tooth and nail for supremacy but, after 90 minutes of regulation and an extra 30 of extra time, they could not be split.
It took a penalty shoot out to decide the victor in one of the most intense A-League deciders ever.
While the Sky Blues were the red hot favourites to win, it was Melbourne Victory that leapt out of the blocks, bossing the midfield with hard men like Carl Valeri and Leigh Broxham making things decidedly tough for the Sydney FC midfield.
Bone jarring tackles were the order of the day, with superstar Milos Ninkovic the regular target, along with captain Alex Brosque.
Try as it might, the pressure was too great from the Victory and the Sky Blues could not get anything going.
And the frustration of being dominated soon turned to panic when the A-League’s greatest striker Besart Berisha bobbed up with his customary grand final goal.
It took only 20 minutes for the centurion to split the Sky Blues’ defence with a superb step over and then rip it to pieces with a rifling left foot strike that nestled in the bottom of the goal, giving former Victory stopper Danny Vukovic no chance.
Belisha has scored in each of his four grand final appearances with Victory and Brisbane Roar and he drew level with Archie Thompson for the most goals in A-League deciders, with five.
Despite lifting the intensity after the goal was struck, the Sky Blues faced a 1-0 deficit going into the break.
The second half lacked intensity and chances, but it was Sydney FC who made the most of one, drawing level after a stunning turn and strike from substitute David Carney was somehow kept out of the goal, before Socceroo Ryan Grant buttered up and levelled the scores with just over 20 to go.
Try as they may, neither side could find another goal and, when James Troisi hit the woodwork in extra time, it was always going to penalties.
Sydney FC proved too good, with Troisi again hitting the woodwork and injured Victory star Marco Rojas fudging his penalty to give Sydney FC its third A-League title, 4-2 on spot kicks.
Eleven yellow cards between the two teams were handed out in the match, but they managed to avoid having anyone sent off.
Even though it could have gone either way, many neutral supporters felt the correct result was achieved, given Sydney FC’s performance on the season.
The Victory did have a consolation prize though, with departing wing back Daniel Georgievski collecting the Joe Marston Medal for best player on the park in the grand final, right before he leaves for Newcastle Jets next season – decision that was made in March.
And so we look ahead to 2018 where Sydney FC will be buoyant after Johnny Warren Medalist Ninkovic put pen to paper to stay with the club for another season.
The Serbian – who scored the match winning penalty on Sunday night, put pen to paper on a one year deal to be the Sky Blues’ marquee man for season 2018.
Victory is set for some upheaval, with Fahid Ben Khalfallah out the door and a number of stars a chance of following, with James Troisi, James Donachie, Nick Ansell and Alan Baro all out of contract at the time of print.
Whatever happens there, you know Victory will have something up their sleeve and there have already been rumblings in media that Socceroo Rhys Williams could be headed east from the Perth Glory to set up shop at AAMI Park.
Hot on the heels of the three top picks are the Perth Glory, who finished third on the ladder and made it all the way to the semi final, before being curtailed by the Sky Blues.
The Glory are $8, only just ahead of both the Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar, who are both $9.
They might have finished just one point off the bottom of the ladder, but the bookies must think Adelaide United is a chance of turning things around in 2018, with the $11 quote suggesting that, while they are a long shot, they do have a slight claim on the new season’s trophy hopes.
Despite bringing experienced mentor Ernie Merrick on board to coach the club out of its mire and the aforementioned addition of Georgievski from Victory, the bookies still don’t give the Jets much hope, rating them a $15 chance, ahead of only cellar dwellers Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix.
Neither of those teams projects to figure prominently, so the $26 on offer for each of them might feel a little bit short.
2018 A-League grand final winners market
Sydney FC ($3.75)
Melbourne Victory ($5)
Melbourne City ($5.50)
Perth Glory ($8)
Western Sydney Wanderers ($9)
Brisbane Roar ($9)
Adelaide United ($11)
Newcastle Jets ($15)
Central Coast Mariners ($26)
Wellington Phoenix ($26)
Odds provided by CrownBet.com.au